WASHINGTON — In the biggest decline in more than two decades, the US violent-crime rate dropped by a record 10.4 percent last year.
The property-crime rate also fell 8.9 percent from 1998 to 1999, said the Bureau of Justice Statistics' victimization study, the government's broadest measure of crime.
It estimated there were 28.8 million violent and property crimes in 1999, the lowest figure since the survey was begun in 1973.
The violent-crime rate decline began in 1994. The decline in the overall property crime rate extends back to 1974.
Academics cite a wide set of causes, including the aging of baby boomers past crime-prone years, subsiding of the crack-cocaine epidemic, antigun campaigns, crime-prevention programs aimed at young people, and a healthy economy.
The survey is based on interviews with more than 77,000 Americans past age 11. It collects data not only on crimes reported to police, but also on the larger number that go unreported. Last year, 44 percent of violent crimes and 34 percent of property crimes were reported to police. The most frequently reported offense was motor-vehicle theft.
Overall, more than 5 in 10 violent-crime victims knew their assailants. And nearly 7 in 10 rape or sexual-assault victims identified their attackers as friends, relatives, or acquaintances.
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