With the number of reported crimes falling by 2.7 percent in 2000, Illinois bucked preliminary findings released in May by the FBI that showed crime nationwide was unchanged.
The figures, compiled in the 2000 State Police Crime in Illinois Report, show a drop in each measurable category -- murder, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.
Law enforcement authorities, legislators and sociologists often have debated what has the greatest influence on bringing down crime. But they largely agree that the streets are safer for several reasons: a robust economy, an aging population, successful community policing programs, stricter sentencing laws that lock up criminals for longer terms and a waning crack epidemic.
"Everybody has their favorite idea or program for why crime is down. If I knew the answer why, my book would be a best-seller," said Wesley Skogan, a Northwestern University professor and author of the book "Community Policing, Chicago Style." "But clearly, the strong economy has played a significant role."
Like Chicago, suburban Cook County, DuPage County and Will County saw a decrease in crime. However, Kane, Lake and McHenry Counties did not.
Because of its sheer size in relation to the state and other communities, Chicago, which experienced its fewest murders in a quarter century, helped pull down the state's overall crime numbers by reporting a 5 percent drop in crime.
Not leveling off as expected
Stumping criminologists and others who were predicting the decrease in crime would level off, the Chicago Police Department on Friday reported that preliminary figures for the first six months of this year indicate that crime is still heading down.
David Bayless, a department spokesman, said that as of Friday, this year is on course to have fewer murders than last year.
"There is probably a bottom threshold to our crime," Bayless said. "If our early numbers for the first six months are any indication, we are not there yet."
In suburban Cook County, overall crime fell by 1.6 percent last year. But the four categories of violent crimes -- murder, sexual assault, robbery and assault -- shot up 8.5 percent, the first increase in three years.
Suburban, statewide numbers
The suburban communities' overall crime was pulled down by a big drop in reported thefts, considered a less serious crime that includes pickpockets, breaking into vending machines and shoplifting.
According to an analysis of crime figures supplied by state police, Markham, a town of 12,620 people in southern Cook, had the highest violent crime rate of any community in the state with more than 5,000 residents.
Markham's violent crime rate was 88 offenses per 1,000 residents.
The next three highest violent crime rates belonged to communities in Downstate St. Clair County: East St. Louis, Washington Park and Centreville. Chicago had the seventh-highest violent crime rate in the state.
Among communities in the collar counties, University Park in Will County was the sole municipality among the top 10 for highest violent crime rates.