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U.S. violent crime falls slightly

But national one-year averages mask better progress in big cities and a crime rise in the South.

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After two years of increases, violent crime in the United States seems to be on the wane.

Overall, the number of violent crimes fell by 1.4 percent from 2006; in the 10 largest cities, homicides fell by nearly 10 percent, according to the preliminary 2007 statistics released by the FBI Monday.

Still, experts caution against reading too much into year-to-year statistics, and note that broad nationwide or regional trends can often mask important trends – not all of them positive – in specific cities or demographic groups.

"I think we see a continuation of what is basically a flat trend that we've been experiencing pretty much since 2000," says Alfred Blumstein, a professor of urban systems at the Heinz School at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Certain cities – notably Los Angeles and New York – showed big drops in their murder rate, he notes, while others, like New Orleans and Atlanta, saw increases. "What we're seeing is more individual city-based experiences than any national picture," he says.

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