The latest preliminary estimates of crime levels conducted by the FBI at http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/2004/04prelim.pdf indicate that the number of violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery and assault) in the U.S. decreased by 1.7%, property crimes by 1.8% (auto theft, burglary and theft), and arson by 6.8%.
In the Western region the decline was slightly greater than it was overall for violent crimes (-2%) but not property crimes (< -1%). For personal crime the West fared better than the South (-1.2%) or Midwest (-1.6%) but not as well as the Northeast (-2.6%). For property crimes the West decreased less than 1% while the remaining regions decreased between 2-3.5%. For arson the Northeast shows a dramatic -10.9% reduction and the Midwest -9.3% while for the West it is -6.5%.
What do we make of all these data? Our population is increasing and by this measure the number of crimes is going down overall. However, putting aside all of the methodological issues that surround FBI data, which are numerous and weighty, I still see massive media coverage of crime. Most notably, there is little or no attention whatsoever placed on the fact of decline in crime. I also don't see much variation in this by region or year.