Washington — The number of people victimized by crime in the United States fell 4.1 percent in 1982, the Justice Department said Sunday. This is the largest drop since the government began its National Crime Survey 10 years ago. The department's annual survey said there were 39.8 million incidents of crime against people in 1982, down from 41.5 million in 1981.
''There are strong arguments in support of the belief that crime rates are declining as the so-called baby boom generation matures, since a high proportion of criminal offenders are young,'' said Steven Schlesinger, director of the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics. ''When there are relatively fewer young people in the population, crime would be expected to decline.''
Mr. Schlesinger said the drop also may be due to longer, tougher prison sentences and the record number of criminals in state and federal prisons.