Alongside weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and biologicalwarfare, Americans now have more to fear after a recent FBI studyfound that all types of violent crime, except murder, has been on agradual decline in the past year. The 15,500 homicide rate of 1999gave most the impression that our society was moving in a positivedirection, but numbers since then have steadily crept up to morethan 16,500 in 2003, which translates into almost six murders forevery 100,000 U.S. residents for the year, or a six percent jumpsince 1999.
Howard University’s location in the heart ofWashington, DC, which has a murder rate of 9.4 percent, has somestudents questioning their safety.
“I don’t feel safe here because itis an open campus. Strangers have the ability to walk on campus andharm students with weapons. A fence or more restrictive measureswould prevent this from being a problem,” stated TamikaSmith, a sophomore broadcast journalism major.
The recent rise in murder rates can beattributed to an incline in youth gang violence. FBI reportsindicate that in 1999, the amount of youth gangs was 580, comparedwith 819 in 2003. There is some hope for American crime rates, assome statistics reflect that overall violent crimes are declining.
Total violent crimes, including murder,manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault were at 1.4million in 2003. These numbers reflect a three percent drop sincethe previous year. Aggravated assaults, which make up two-thirds ofall violent crimes, have also been dropping for the past 10 years.
The report illustrates that law enforcementefforts have proven successful in most areas of crime. Withincreased federal prosecution of gun crimes, more arrests of drugoffenders and longer sentencing of repeat offenders, Americaappears to be feeling safer every year.
Property crimes of theft and burglaryrepresent 10.4 million of the crimes committed in 2003 and reflecta one percent decline. The report represents 475 violent crimes forevery 100,000 Americans, which reveals a 3.9 percent decline fromprevious years.
The report also states that two-thirds of lastyear’s murders were committed with a firearm. Some studentsworry that with a 10-year-old federal ban on assault weapons beinglifted in September the crime rate for murders committed with afirearm will skyrocket in the years to come.
Democrats argue that more needs to be done. Anincrease in federal funding for gang prevention programs isconsidered one of the main factors needed to help aid in the fightfor a safer America.
“The lift of the ban on firearmsdoesn’t help in our fight against violent crimes and thesafety of Americans,” stated William J Hall, a senior radiobroadcast major.
The FBI report comes from crime ratessubmitted by 17,000 state and local law enforcement agencies aroundthe country.