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Big-city murder rates decline in 2004

Big cities were less deadly places to live in 2004 as murder rates declined in several urban areas, including New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Officials in New York and Chicago credit the drop to crime-fighting strategies that included putting more officers on the street and beefing up patrols in dangerous neighborhoods.

"We really targeted gangs, drugs and guns," Chicago police spokesman Pat Camden said. "Technology enabled us to take our gang tactical units and put them in places where we anticipated violence, areas where narcotics trafficking was bold and blatant."

There were 445 homicides in Chicago as of Thursday, compared to 600 in all of 2003, police said. That is a decrease of about 25 percent _ the year's largest drop _ and would mark the first year since 1965 the city finished with fewer than 500 murders. The high mark was in 1992, when there were 940.

Exceptions to the trend were St. Louis, Detroit and Baltimore. The overall results were consistent with official FBI statistics for the first half of 2004, which showed a nearly 6 percent fall in murders for the nation.

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