Denver's murder tally for 2009 was the lowest since 2000 and the second-lowest since 1964, following an encouraging state and national trend of decreasing violence in major cities.
"America is a much safer country," said Dr. Jeff London, assistant professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State College of Denver.
An aging population, better crime tools and lengthier prison terms contribute to a quarter-century-long trend of decreasing violence, experts say. But one criminologist warns that that could change with the economy.
"Recession will erode the trend of dropping murder rates," predicted Dr. Eric Hickey, dean of the California School of Forensic Studies at Alliant International University in Fresno. "You can only live with the strain of dealing with the recession so long before people start turning to crime."
So far, murder rates across the country are still dropping.
In Denver, the number of murders has fallen 58 percent since 2004, from 91 that year to 38 in 2009. The number of murders fell 19 percent from 47 in 2008.
In Los Angeles, the number of murders dropped below an average of one a day for the first time in at least five years and fell 18 percent from 2008, from 382 to 313, Norma Eisenman, Los Angeles police spokeswoman, said Saturday.
In Chicago, comparing annual tallies from Jan. 1 to Dec. 27 in 2008 and 2009, the number of murders dropped 11 percent, from 509 to 453, Chicago police Sgt. Karla Chaplin said Saturday.
"It is excellent news," Chaplin said.
In New York City, also as of Dec. 27, the number of murders dropped 11 percent, from 516 in 2008 to 461 in 2009, according to a police spokesman.
In Colorado Springs, murders fell from 23 in 2008 to 19 in 2009. Although the number of murders in Aurora increased from 18 in 2008 to 22 in 2009, last year's total was six fewer than the 28 murders committed in 2004.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates downplayed the statistical relevance of annual fluctuations in murder totals when considering a category of crime where the numbers are so low.