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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Criminologists have been waiting for the latest FBI numbers for weeks and the results were what many had feared. In the first half of the year, violent crime rose in cities and towns across the country. It signals the long period of declining crime is not just at an end, but also that the trend is heading in the other direction.

NPR's Laura Sullivan reports.

LAURA SULLIVAN: It's an ominous sign for police officers and criminologists who were hoping last year's increase was just a blip.

Mr. ALFRED BLUMSTEIN (Carnegie Mellon University): Robbery has jumped up by over nine percent and murder jumped up by 1.5 percent.

SULLIVAN: Alfred Blumstein, at Carnegie Mellon University, has been tracking crime numbers for 30 years.

The report, which compiled numbers from more than 11,000 police departments, found violent crime was up almost four percent from last year. And last year was already an increase from the year before. But Blumstein says the robbery numbers are what really trouble him, because they've always served as a warning of what's to come.

Mr. BLUMSTEIN: There's clearly a growing number of people who have no future in our economy. There are basically three modes of earning income: One is to have a job, the other is welfare and the third is theft.

SULLIVAN: The last time robbery jumped so dramatically it was in the early 1990s, at the height of the crack wars. But the crack market's stabilized in the 10 years since, and so has drug use.

Blumstein says the problem behind the crime rise now may be the historic numbers of inmates convicted during the last crime wave returning home from prison with no job prospects or skills. There's also been a proliferation of handguns in recent years, as well as a growing rise of retaliatory killings in some cities.

Mr. BLUMSTEIN: It's almost a lightning strike that escalates, particularly in a setting where you don't have community policing, where the intelligence information on what's likely to happen is weak, where the communication is limited.

SULLIVAN: And that's the other problem. After 9/11, federal funding that paid for extra officers and gang prevention fell. Much of the money went to the Department of Homeland Security, which gave out much smaller grants and only for terrorism related initiatives. The federal budget for crime fighting is now a little more than a third of what it was 10 years ago.

Mr. GENE VOEGTLIN (International Association of Chiefs of Police): Regardless of why crime has gone up, I can tell you what the solution is going to be. It's to pay more attention to the problem and devote more resources to addressing it.

SULLIVAN: Gene Voegtlin is legislative counsel for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which represents thousands of police departments

Mr. VOEGTLIN: We had a lot of success in the late ‘90s and the early part of this decade in bringing crime rates down and keeping them down. You know, we kind of took our eye off the ball there for a while, but now we have a choice -do we want them to continue to increase or do we want to take steps to actively combat crime?

SULLIVAN: The FBI report did have some positive numbers. Property crime, like burglary and auto theft, dropped 2.6 percent.

Laura Sullivan, NPR News, Washington.

BLOCK: You can find the latest violent crime rates for your region of the country at NPR.org.

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