Jan. 23 (UPI) -- The overall violent crime rate fell during the first half of 2017 but murders increased during that period, according to the semiannual FBI crime statistics released Tuesday.
Compared to the first half of 2016, the number of violent crimes decreased by 0.8 percent between January and June in 2017. That includes a 2.4 percent decrease in rape, 6.1 percent decrease in burglary and a 0.1 percent decrease in aggravated assault.
But the murder rate increased by 1.5 percent.
Although murders increased, Attorney General Jeff Sessions pointed out in an op-ed in USA Today that the murder rate slowed down compared to 2016 when there was a 5.2 percent increase from the previous year.
"In the first six months of last year, the increase in the murder rate slowed and violent crime actually went down," Sessions said Tuesday. "Publicly available data for the rest of the year suggest further progress. For the first time in the past few years, the American people can have hope for a safer future."
Sessions credited President Donald Trump for prioritizing the reduction of violent crime, but did not address the murder rate increase.
"Trump ran for office on a message of law and order, and he won," Sessions said. "When he took office, he ordered the Department of Justice to stop and reverse these trends -- and that is what we have been doing every day for the past year."
Although violent crime has increased since 2014, according to FBI and Bureau of Justice Statistics, the violent crime rate has steadily trended downward for decades, including a 50 percent decrease between 1993 and 2015.
However, the murder rate has risen in recent years, including a 10 percent spike between 2014 and 2015.
But while some cities like Chicago, Baltimore and Louisville, Ky. have seen higher rates of murder, other cities like New York are at historic lows.