District of Columbia: Violent crime in the United States rose last year, the FBI said Monday, reporting data that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump could use in the debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The FBI said that in 2015 there were 1,197,704 violent crimes, an increase of 3.9 percent compared with the previous year.
Murder and non-negligent manslaughter increased 10.8 percent, and firearms were involved in two-thirds of those cases, the agency said.
The increase in the murder rate was due mainly to rises in seven major cities: Chicago, Baltimore, Houston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Washington.
On the very day the FBI report was released, a gunman in Houston wounded nine people near an apartment complex before being shot and killed by police. Last Friday, a young male shooter killed five people in a department store in the state of Washington.
Despite the uptick, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the statistics showed that the violent crime rate had fallen 15 percent since Obama took office.
"The president believes there`s more that we can and should do," he said. "And there`s no area where the president has been more outspoken than taking action on common-sense gun safety measures that would make it harder for criminals and others who shouldn`t have them to buy a gun."The FBI figures were released hours before the hotly awaited first presidential debate between Clinton and Trump. Crime was expected to be one of the key topics for discussion.
It is one of the pet issues of Trump, who depicts himself as a tough law-and-order candidate.
Trump, who is backed by the powerful US gun lobby, hammers away at his idea that America is a country threatened by uncontrolled illegal immigration, which he blames for violent crime and drug trafficking.
Trump, a billionaire real estate developer, dismisses Obama`s administration as soft on crime, and could allude to the FBI report during Monday night`s debate to press this argument and bill himself as the solution to crime.
Last week Trump expressed support for profiling -- the discriminatory police practice of targeting people for suspicion of crime on the basis of their race, ethnicity or religion. Most victims are either African American or Latino.
Although violent crime increased last year, overall the tendency over the past 20 years has been a decline. Crime levels these days in America are far below the peak years in the 1990s.
The FBI said it collects data on the violent crimes of murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
The FBI said burglaries fell 7.8 percent and larceny-thefts declined 1.8 percent, but motor vehicle thefts increased by 3.1 percent.
The release of the report comes as murder rates have risen in several US cities in 2015 and 2016, mainly Chicago, where authorities have reported more than 500 homicides since January. That is more than all of last year.
Experts say different factors come into play depending on the city, mainly drug trafficking, gang wars and the availability of guns.