Spike in Violent Crime in '16 Was Biggest Increase in 25 Years

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WASHINGTON — The nation's violent crime rate rose again in 2016, with murder up sharply, according to data released Monday by the FBI.

Property crimes, including burglary and car theft, dropped for the 14th consecutive year, the FBI said in its annual report, "Crime in the United States."

Image: Police investigate the scene of a shooting in Chicago on Jan. 1, 2017. The shooting of two people brought the number of people shot in Chicago to 4000 people in 2016-- one of the most violent years in the city in two decades.

A total of 17,250 murders were reported, an increase of 8.6 percent from 2015. The murder rate, or the number of offenses per 100,000 people, was 7.9 percent. Overall, total violent crimes were up 4.1 percent.

Though the year-to-year comparison showed an increase in violent crime, the FBI said it was down 18 percent from 10 years earlier.

"For the sake of all Americans, we must confront and turn back the rising tide of violent crime. And we must do it together," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has made crime-fighting a centerpiece of his tenure.

A Justice Department statement on the new figures said they reaffirm that "the worrying violent crime increase that began in 2015 after many years of decline was not an isolated incident."

The overall increase in the violent crime rate, 3.4 percent, was the biggest annual rise in 25 years, DOJ said.

But some experts said it's too soon to tell whether the numbers show the start of a new crime rate or a temporary uptick.

"There's no question that there are pockets of increased violence across the country," said Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts. But he noted that Chicago accounted for one-fifth of the increase in murders.

John Pfaff, a professor of law at Fordham University, said about half of the increase in Chicago murders took place in just a few areas of the city. "Five neighborhoods in Chicago explain 10 percent of the national increase in homicide rates," he said.

Pfaff warned against assuming that traditional tough-on-crime responses are the answer, nothing that while New York state has the longest sustained period of de-emphasizing incarceration, homicides in New York City were down 5 percent.

"As the murder rate gets lower, as it has in the past several years, any upward change looks worse," Pfaff said.

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