The violent crime rate in the US dropped for the fifth straight year in 2011, and is approaching a low not seen in decades, according to new FBI data. The overall violent crime rate fell 4%, with murders down 1.9%, and rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults down 4%—although murders in small towns with fewer than 10,000 people surged 18%, CNN reports. Despite the economic downturn, property crimes like burglary were down 8%, a small decline but the ninth consecutive annual one, Reuters notes.
The fall in violent crime is because of a combination of factors, including better policing, an older population, and the tendency of communities to pull together when faced with a crisis like the economic downturn, a University of Maryland criminology professor tells MSNBC. "We also have a record number of immigrants, and, contrary to popular belief, immigrants have lower crime rates than the rest of society," he says. But the FBI figures show that violent crime began to edge upward toward the end of 2011, and experts warn that the low crime rate should not cause agencies to ease crime-fighting efforts.