The preliminary annual report is based upon information from law enforcement agencies that provided the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program with 6 to 12 months of data in both 2002 and 2003. In total, 11,921 agencies met the criteria to be included in the preliminary report.

In order to gauge the level and types of violent acts occurring across the Nation, the UCR Program tracks the offenses of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault; collectively, these offenses form the violent crime category. A comparison of current data to those from 2002 indicates a decline in such crimes nationally. Among the violent offenses, only murder showed an increase during 2003, rising 1.3 percent from the previous year. Of those violent crimes that showed declines, aggravated assault had the largest drop at 4.1 percent; forcible rape and robbery each declined 1.9 percent from the prior year’s data.

The national trend toward fewer violent crimes was reflected in the Nation’s cities, particularly those cities with more than 1 million inhabitants, which had a 6.5-percent reduction in violent crime compared to the 2002 statistics. Among all cities, only those with populations in the range of 50,000 to 99,999 reported any increase (0.7 percent).

Despite the decline in violent offenses overall, all city population groupings reported increases in the offense of murder. The rise was led by a 15.7-percent increase in homicides occurring in the smallest U.S. cities (those with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants) and a 10.8-percent rise in cities with populations in the 10,000–24,999 range. Cities with 1 million or more inhabitants had an increase in murder of 0.2 percent during the time period.

The UCR Program also collects data on the crimes of burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft to measure the level of crimes occurring in the Nation that involve loss of property; taken together, these offenses comprise the property crime category. For 2003, the data indicated a slight decline, 0.1 percent, in overall property crime offenses compared to the prior year’s data. The decreases seen in larceny-theft (0.5 percent) were offset by increases in burglary (0.4 percent) and motor vehicle theft (1.4 percent).