REUTERS – Crime Survey Shows Largest Drop Ever in 2000

This is a June 13, 2001 article by James Vicini of the Reuters News Service on the latest crime figures just released by the US Justice Department detailing a 15% decline in 2000.

By James Vicini

WASHINGTON – The U.S. violent crime rate, which has fallen steadily for years, declined by 15 percent in 2000, the largest annual decrease since the survey started in 1974, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.

According to its annual crime victims survey, the agency’s Bureau of Justice Statistics said Americans experienced about 7.4 million violent crimes such as rape, assault and robbery last year, about I million fewer than in 1999.

Property crimes, which account for about 75 percent of all offenses and which include household burglaries and motor vehicle thefts, fell by 10 percent last year.

In all, there were an estimated 25.9 million violent and property crimes last year, down from 28.8 million in 1999 and 44 million in 1974 when the survey began. The rate has been going down every year since 1994.

The survey is based on interviews with nearly 160,000 people 12 or older in 86,800 households across the country and is considered more complete than FBI figures, which only give crimes reported to the police.

Justice Department officials said the survey had a margin of error, plus or minus, of 4.6 percent for the overall crime numbers and 7.7 percent for the violent crime numbers.

The survey said only about half of the violent crimes and about a third of the property crimes were reported to the police — a level that has held steady over the years.

Victims most commonly do not report crimes to the police because they feel the offense was a private, personal matter, the offender was unsuccessful in the attempted crime or stolen property was recovered. Justice Department officials said.

The survey of crime victims does not include murder. The FBI has estimated the number of murders nationwide declined by just 1.1 percent to 15,362 last year.

Attorney General John Ashcroft, who took office in February, issued a statement describing last year’s significant crime decrease as heartening” and “good news.”


He said that “there are still far too many people in our nation who are victims of crime” and that work must continue to prevent crime to make sure ‘our communities become even safer.

The survey appeared to contradict the FBI’s most recent figures, which showed crime leveling off in 2000 and the predictions of some criminal experts who had warned the numbers would go up again after years of decline in the 1990s.

Lawrence Greenfeld, acting director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, told reporters the difference wiih the FBI crime numbers undoubtedly will cause confusion.

He said that in 20 of the 27 years, both sets of numbers have moved in the same direction. But he said that tracking crime, like tracking the economy, involved various different measures that do not always move in tandem.

Experts have said the slowing economy, the release of large numbers of prison inmates and increases in the numbers of young people, the group that commits the greatest number of offenses, could send crime rates higher.

The survey said almost every demographics group, including whites, blacks, Hispanics and those between 12 and 24, experienced fewer violent crimes than in 1999.

Regionally, residents in the West and Midwest were victims of violent crimes at rates slightly higher than that for residents in the South and Northeast.