The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Sunday, December 4, 1994               TAG: 9412040081
SECTION: LOCAL                    PAGE: B1   EDITION: FINAL 
                                             LENGTH: Long  :  104 lines


Portsmouth's murder rate was the 24th highest in the nation in 1993, one notch higher than that of Los Angeles, the FBI said Saturday. Richmond was sixth.

Portsmouth and Richmond were the only two Virginia cities ranked in the top 25 for murder rates based on population.

Portsmouth reported 31 murders in 1993, which was down 14 percent from a year earlier and was just half the 62 homicides reported in Norfolk that year.

Portsmouth reported 36 murders in 1992, 32 in 1991.

Police officials had not seen the FBI statistical report and had no comment on the figures Saturday night.

``We have not seen the information. . . we don't know how it was compiled,'' said G.A.Brown, a police spokesman. ``We're not in a position to comment at this time.''

Mayor Gloria O. Webb could not be reached for comment.

It was unclear how other cities in Hampton Roads placed in the rankings.

There was good news in the national statistics, the FBI said. While still ``unacceptably high,'' serious crime in the first six months of 1994 fell by 3 percent nationally from the same period last year.

The semiannual decline followed annual decreases of 2 percent in 1993 and 3 percent in 1992.

Federal officials offered no explanation for the trend nationally or locally and cautioned against too much optimism.

``Any decline in reported crime is welcome, but the level of crime is still unacceptably high and it must be substantially reduced,'' said a statement accompanying the report.

Gerald M. Caplan, a former federal law enforcement official who is dean of the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, Calif., also offered a note of caution, saying that data collection ``is not so refined that one can safely predict a trend in this area.''

Demographics could explain some of the modest decline, Caplan and others suggested. They pointed to the shrinking numbers of Americans in the 18-to-26 age group, which accounts for most violent crime.

Jan Chaiken, a Justice Department authority on crime figures, said ``people also are working more to protect themselves, which is why we have seen a decline in burglaries and car thefts.''

The FBI divides serious crimes into two categories: crimes of violence, such as murder and rape, and crimes against property, such as burglary and arson.

Among the violent crimes measured for the first six months of this year, murder decreased 2 percent; forcible rape, 6 percent; robbery, 4 percent, and aggravated assault, 3 percent.

In the property-crime category, burglary was down 6 percent, and larceny and motor vehicle theft each declined 2 percent. Arson showed no change.

Also Saturday, the FBI released its 1993 annual publication, ``Crime in the United States.'' The final figures showed an estimated 14.1 million serious offenses were reported in 1993 to law enforcement agencies across the nation, or 5,483 crimes for every 100,000 inhabitants.

Aggravated assaults accounted for 59 percent of the violent crimes reported last year. Robberies comprised 34 percent; forcible rapes, 5 percent; and murders, 1 percent. Firearms were the weapon of choice in 32 percent of all murders, robberies and aggravated assaults.

The FBI said the proportion of violent crimes committed with firearms has increased in recent years. In 1989, firearms were used in 27 percent of all violent offenses.

An estimated 2.8 million arrests were made in 1993 for all serious offenses, with some arrests representing multiple crimes.

Of all those arrested last year for crimes other than traffic offenses, 45 percent were under the age of 25, and 81 percent were males. ILLUSTRATION: Graphic


Shown here are cities with populations of more than 100,000 with

the highest murder rates in 1993 per 100,000 residents.

MurderCity rate 1. Gary, Ind. 89.1

2. New Orleans 80.3

3. Washington, D.C. 78.5

4. St. Louis 69

5. Detroit 56.8

6. Richmond 54.5

7. Atlanta 50.4

8. Baltimore 48.1

9. San Bernardino 47.1

10. Birmingham, Ala 45.0

11. Bridgeport, Conn. 43.8

12. Jackson, Miss. 41.9

13. Oakland, Calif. 40.8

14. Inglewood, Calif. 39.9

15. Shreveport, La. 38.5

16. Little Rock, Ark. 38.0

17. Newark, N.J. 35.6

18. Kansas City 35.1

19. Flint, Mich. 34.3

20. Miami 34.1

21. Cleveland 33.0

22. Baton Rouge 32.8

23. Memphis 32.0

24. Portsmouth 31.1

25. Los Angeles 30.5