Continuing a trend that’s puzzled researchers, crime in San Diego largely mirrored a nationwide decline last year, according to crime statistics released Monday by the FBI.

In San Diego, the number of violent crimes — murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — dropped 5.3 percent from the previous year and the number of property crimes — burglary, theft and vehicle theft — dropped 4.6 percent. (Nationwide, violent crime dropped 5.5 percent and property crimes were down 2.8 percent.)

San Diego stood out in at least one crime category, though. Police reported 29 murders last year, a 29 percent drop from the previous year and the lowest number since 1963. It was a steeper drop than all other major cities and far greater than the nationwide drop, 4.4 percent.

San Diego also continued to have one of the lowest violent crime rates among major cities, with 428 crimes per 100,000 residents. Only San Jose had a lower rate, with 331 crimes per capita. By comparison, the average for major cities was 700 crimes per capita.

Nationwide crime declines in recent years have continued to puzzle criminologists, who expected worsening economic conditions to lead to more crime. Instead, crime has continued a steady fall since the 1990s.

Researchers and law enforcement officials have suggested other reasons for the decline, including fewer people reporting crime, harsher prison sentences, improved enforcement practices and shifting social tensions. The New York Times examined the baffling drop in a story Monday, noting:

Nationally, the drop in violent crime not only calls into question the theory that crime rates are closely correlated with economic hardship, but another argument as well, said Frank E. Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

As the percentage of people behind bars has decreased in the past few years, violent crime rates have fallen as well. For those who believed that higher incarceration rates inevitably led to less crime, “this would also be the last time to expect a crime decline,” he said.

To browse the FBI statistics, click here. And to learn how you can track crime trends in your neighborhood, check out this previous post.

Please contact Keegan Kyle directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/keegankyle.

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