In this economic lull, with people desperate for money and police departments facing budget cuts, violent crime somehow fell -- a lot.

Violent crime showed a pronounced 28 percent drop in just a single year in Charleston, new FBI data for 2010 shows. The "violent crime" category in the federal agency's annual Uniform Crime Reporting program includes the most heinous offenses: murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

A national downward trend held, for the most part, across the Lowcountry but most noticeably in its two biggest cities -- Charleston and North Charleston -- which account for the most incidents. Two growing towns, Mount Pleasant and Summerville, both showed slight increases in violent crime.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley credited Police Chief Greg Mullen, "his innovative programs and the dedication and diligence of the fine men and women of his department," for the positive news. Mullen credited his officers.

The 2010 statistics, released Monday, come just two months after Mullen announced a 50 percent reduction in violent crime over the past three years. Among the reasons for success, he named the police department's 100 resident volunteers, a stronger partnership with college students and a free shuttle service for them, a full-time police recruiter and a six-week pre-academy course for its new recruits.

"It's just a continuing trend we've been seeing for some years now," Mullen said Monday. He also praised his officers for their sense of urgency in responding to cases.

"What we're trying to do really is pick up where future events may occur, based on the information we might have," he said.

Mullen added that putting officers in trouble spots and collaborating with other agencies also helped keep crime down last year.

"We've been building and, in 2010, I think a lot of what we've been building on has really come together," he said.

North Charleston also saw a marked decrease of 14 percent year over year for violent crime. That news proves especially important to a city that previously suffered from negative and controversial crime publicity, including a ranking that put it at the seventh most dangerous city in the country in 2007.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey praised his police department's approach of looking at crime statistics weekly, identifying trouble areas with uniformed patrol and then dispatching special units to clean up those places.

"I think it's important to know where our hot spots are to deter crime," Summey said.

He said the weekly review began a few years ago, and he expects crime to decrease more as that routine continues.

The violent crime drop in Charleston and North Charleston mirrors a national trend. The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program showed a 6 percent decrease nationwide in violent crime from the previous year's estimate.

The new figures also demonstrated a more than 13 percent drop in violent crime across the country during the past decade.

That said, both Charleston and North Charleston saw a slight increase in murders and non-negligent manslaughter cases between 2009 and 2010.

Property crime, which includes burglary and theft, dropped less than a percent year over year in Charleston and about 3 percent year over year in North Charleston.

Nationwide, property crime dropped nearly 3 percent in 2010, the FBI numbers found.

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/allyson jbird.