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FBI: violent crime down, but people don't feel safer

The FBI crime report, released Monday, shows murder and rape are down dramatically. But data on property crimes are inconclusive.

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Overall crime in the US has dwindled to nearly 1960s levels, with particularly violent crimes – murder and rape – on a dramatic downward spiral, the FBI reported Monday.

Yet across the country, and especially in the South, residents are still alarmed about crime. Many report a surge in property crimes – chiefly break-ins targeting flat-screen TVs.

Criminologists have expected crime rates to rise – especially as young unemployed males turn to illegal enterprises for cash during the recession. But so far, at least, the current pattern seems more akin to what happened during the Great Depression, when crime rates did not spike dramatically despite – or perhaps because of – widespread poverty.

"It's kind of understood, but without being proven, if you've got an economic crisis that you're likely going to see an upswing in property crimes," says Stephen Handelman, director of the Center on Media, Crime, and Justice at John Jay College in New York. "Yet if everybody's in the same bag, then individual neighborhoods are not necessarily as threatened as when you have sharp disparities in income, as you did in the 1990s."

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