New federal statistics show that violent crime dropped significantly across the country last year.
said murder, rape and aggravated assault were down 5.5 percent from 2008, and nearly 7 percent in big cities, The Wall Street Journal
reported. Property crime fell nearly 5 percent in 2009.
"It represents a break in the pattern of the relationship between crime increases and economic downturns," Richard Rosenfeld, criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, told the newspaper.
It's the third year in a row that violent crime has decreased. The data
, which officials stress is still preliminary, comes from more than 13,000 police departments.
The declines were most significant in cities with populations of more than 1 million. In Phoenix, where a perception of rising crime has fueled an immigration backlash, the numbers dropped 16.6 percent, according to the Journal.
What's the reason for the dramatic declines? William Bratton, a former police chief in Los Angeles and New York, said police officers are the ones to thank.
"Policing has advanced. We've gotten better at spotting crime trends more quickly," Bratton said. "We can respond much more quickly."
Other officials credit a nationwide drop in the market for street drugs in urban centers.