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HOMICIDE TRENDS IN THE UNITED STATES U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 4:30 P.M. EST BJS SATURDAY, JANUARY 2, 1999 202/307-0784 NATION'S LARGEST CITIES LEAD THE WAY AS HOMICIDES FALL TO LOWEST RATE IN THREE DECADES WASHINGTON, D.C. The nation's murder rate last year fell to its lowest level in three decades, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics announced today. Much of the decline was in the nation's largest cities, those with more than 1 million inhabitants, where the rate fell from 35.5 per 100,000 population in 1991 to 20.3 per 100,000 during 1997. The sharp increase in homicides in the late 1980s and much of the subsequent decline is attributable to a rise and fall in gun violence by juveniles and young adults. Murder rates for those 25 years old and older have declined steadily during the last 20 years, but the rates for younger groups--teenagers and young adults--rose sharply in the late 1980s and early 1990s before falling more recently. Homicide is of interest not only because of its severity, but also because it is a fairly reliable barometer for all violent crime. At the national level no other crime is measured as accurately. The 1997 murder rates, especially those involving guns, were higher in the South and on the West Coast and lower than the national average in New England, the Rocky Mountain States and in the East North Central regions of the United States. Among the report's other findings: --There were dramatic increases in both homicide victimization and offending rates among young black males in the late 1980s and 1990s before recent declines in both categories. --From 1976 through 1997, 85 percent of white murder victims were killed by whites and 94 percent of black victims were killed by blacks. --During the same period, blacks were seven times more likely than whites to be homicide victims and eight times more likely than whites to commit homicides. --Also from 1976 through 1997, the number of husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends killed in each race and gender group fell: among black female victims by 46 percent, black males by 77 percent, white males by 55 percent and white females by 14 percent. --The number of infanticides (victims under age five) has grown, roughly in proportion to the number of young children in the population, with most of the perpetrators being their parents. --In homicides in which the victim was killed by an acquaintance, 1 in 10 was interracial, whereas when the killer was a stranger, three in 10 were interracial. --The annual number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty declined. --Males are most often the victims and the perpetrators in homicides: males were more than nine times more likely than women to commit murder, and male and female offenders are more likely to target male than female victims. The data are contained in a BJS Internet report on homicide trends. It also cites homicide rate changes among specific racial and age groups that do not always follow the general trends. The report, "Homicide Trends in the United States," is an analysis of data the Federal Bureau of Investigation gathers through its Uniform Crime Reporting series. It was prepared by James Alan Fox, a BJS Visiting Fellow and Professor of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, and BJS statistician Marianne W. Zawitz. It is available on the Internet at BJS's website: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/ Additional criminal justice materials can be obtained from the Office of Justice Programs Internet homepage at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov # # # After hours contact: Stu Smith at 301/983-9354 (end of file)