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Depsite last year's 2.1 percent drop in crime, the city could not keep pace with N.Y. and L.A. Of the 20 largest U.S. cities, Philadelphia had the fifth-least number of crimes reported to police in 1997, but it also had the fifth-highest robbery rate, according to FBI crime statistics released this week. Overall, reported crimes in the nation's fifth-largest city fell 2.1 percent from 1996, from 94,565 to 92,591. That change, below the mean drop of 4.9 percent for the top 20 cities, was well behind other major cities such as Los Angeles -- which saw a 13 percent drop in major crimes -- and New York, where crime fell 7 percent. Much of Philadelphia's low crime figures are due to the relatively small number of burglaries and thefts reported. In terms of robberies and murders, the city continues to rank among the most dangerous. City officials got wind of the statistics -- compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation from reports submitted by individual police departments -- as recently installed Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney prepares to use some of the same crime-fighting tactics in the City of Brotherly Love as he implemented while a deputy commissioner in New York. "Obviously, I am very concerned with the homicide rates, the shootings, aggravated assaults," Timoney told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "I will also come up with strategies for robberies and burglaries and stolen cars." Los Angeles passed Philadelphia, the fourth-safest big city in 1996, to take the No. 4 position in 1997, bumping Philadelphia down a notch. For the second straight year, San Jose, Calif., the 11th-largest U.S. city, was the safest large city. New York was second, followed by San Diego, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Indianapolis and San Francisco. Crimes included in the statistics are murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft. Robberies in Philadelphia fell 9.5 percent, from 13,188 to 11,938, the 14th-largest decline among the 20 biggest cities in 1997 and behind the mean change of a 10.6 percent decrease. Still, Philadelphia had the fifth-highest rate of robberies in the 20 cities for the second consecutive year. In another major category, murders fell 2.4 percent, from 420 to 410 incidents. However, the city held steady in the No. 4 position for the most murders among the 20 biggest cities. But murders in New York fell 22 percent, from 983 to 770, and Los Angeles saw a 19 percent drop, from 709 to 574. The FBI's press release also includes a footnote for the Philadelphia statistics cautioning that "due to reporting changes and/or incomplete data, figures are not comparable to previous years' figures." Last year the FBI found mistakes in the Philadelphia Police Department's record-keeping system, which lead to a revision of the city's crime statistics.

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