The FBI's annual crime report is based on statistics provided by almost 18,000 law enforcement agencies.
The total number of violent crimes nationwide dropped 1.9 percent compared with 2007, the FBI reported. Murders and non-negligent manslaughters declined 3.9 percent, aggravated assaults dropped 2.5 percent, and forcible rapes fell by 1.6 percent.
The 89,000 estimated forcible rapes in 2008 was the lowest reported total in 20 years.
Racial minorities suffered disproportionately as victims of some of the most violent crimes. Almost half of the country's 14,000 murder victims, for example, were African-American.