Violent crime in the United States dropped slightly during the first half of 2017, though the number of murders increased during the same time, according to preliminary statistics released by the FBI Tuesday.

For the first sixth months of 2017, overall violent crime decreased 0.8 percentage points compared with the same time period in 2016. In 2015 and 2016, the violent crime rate increased nationwide.

Overall crime in the biggest U.S. cities, those with a population of more than 1 million, fell 3.3 percentage points, and murder dropped 1.9 percentage in those cities as well.

But nationwide, the murder rate rose 1.5 percent percentage points in the first half of 2017, buoyed by cities with populations between 100,000 and 1 million.

The data also show the number of murders grew in the Southern and Midwestern U.S., while falling noticeably in the Northeast and slightly in the West. Violent crime fell in most parts of the country, though it increased slightly in the South.

Also during the first half of 2017, rapes decreased 2.4 percentage points, robberies decreased 2.2 percentage points and aggravated assaults were down 0.1 percentage points.

"Though it's too early to make conclusions for the year, these numbers are encouraging. If we continue to thoughtfully implement statewide criminal justice policies, such as sentencing reform and justice reinvestment initiatives, the crime rate is likely to fall even more in coming years — that's the whole point,” said Maj. Neill Franklin, executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.

The data were released as Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote in a USA Today op-ed that President Trump has “kept” a “promise” to end “American carnage.”

“This first year of the Trump era shows once again that the difficult work we do alongside our state, local and tribal law enforcement partners makes a difference. Crime rates are not like the tides — we can help change them. And under Trump’s strong leadership, we will,” Sessions wrote.