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Sunday, 15 October, 2000, 18:55 GMT
US murder rate drops
teenagers weeping for victims of the Columbine High School shooting in April last year
Killings at Columbine High School caused outrage
By Washington correspondent Philippa Thomas

In the United States, the murder rate has dropped to its lowest level since 1966.

FBI figures show the number of serious offences committed in the US last year fell for the eighth year in a row.

Headline news from the United States very often focuses on violent crime, such as the tragic school shootings of recent years.

But the FBI's statistics show that the broader trend is more encouraging.

Jail record

As President Clinton noted in a statement welcoming the figures that the overall crime rate was at a 26-year low and the violent crime rate stood at its lowest level in more than 20 years.


Gun shop
President Clinton has been calling for gun control

The report offers no explanation for the fall in murders, but it is likely that several factors have contributed: in the last seven years, the US has enjoyed a booming economy, more police officers are deployed on the streets and in cities such as New York it's claimed the policy of zero tolerance has helped to deter criminals.

Also, the prison population in the United States now stands at record heights.

The news is not all good: the FBI says assailants used firearms in seven out of every 10 murders last year, a slight increase from the year before.

Attorney-General, Janet Reno, has said the nation must build on the progress made in reducing crime. She said "we cannot rest."

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America and the gun

Key Stories
See also:

08 May 00 | Americas
US crime rate falls again
19 Jan 00 | Americas
Clinton plans assault on guns
22 Mar 00 | Americas
Gunmakers reject US control pact
17 Mar 00 | Americas
Gun safety deal agreed
20 Apr 00 | Americas
One year after Columbine
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