WASHINGTON (AP) -- The nation's longest-running decline in crime ground to a virtual halt in the first half of 2000, falling only slightly overall with rape and assault on the rise, the FBI reported Monday.
Serious crimes reported to police went down 0.3 percent in the first six months of this year, extending the crime decline to eight and a half years. The decline, however, was minuscule compared to the 7 percent drop in 1999 and the 9.5 percent fall for the same six-month period last year.
"The 1990s crime drop has ended with the 1990s," said professor James Alan Fox of Northeastern University in Boston. "This is the criminal justice limbo stick, we just can't go any lower. We've had eight straight, wonderful years of declining crime rates, and at a certain point you just can't push those numbers further down and we've hit that point."
The nation may soon experience a rise in crime because many cities are already seeing increases and during the next decade the teen-age population will increase, Fox said.
"Regardless of what we do, we will still have rape, murder, robbery," he said.
The FBI figures, which come from more than 17,000 police agencies around the country, are preliminary and have not been adjusted for increases in population.
While both violent and property-related crimes declined overall by 0.3 percent, the picture was mixed for specific offenses.
The FBI report showed that murder declined 1.8 percent and robbery fell 2.6 percent, but both rape and aggravated assault went up 0.7 percent.
Among property crimes, burglary fell 2.4 percent, but auto theft rose 1.2 percent and larceny-theft increased 0.1 percent.
The South was the only region to see an overall rise in crime, up 1.2 percent, led by increases in property crime. The Northeast was the only region to show an increase in murders, a rise of 5.5 percent.
Crime was down in cities with populations over 250,000, but rose or plateaued in smaller cities. Crime also rose in the suburbs and was up 3 percent in rural communities.
"Rural communities have had some of the lowest levels of crime," Fox said. "The lower your crime level, the more likely it is you will see an increase."
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