The nation's violent crime rate last year was the lowest since the federal Justice Department began compiling crime statistics in 1973, officials reported yesterday - a situation generally mirrored by local police department figures.
The U.S. Department of Justice released statistics yesterday showing that violent crime fell 10 percent and property crime fell 9 percent from 1998 to 1999. Violent crime dropped 7 percent from 1997 to 1998. The downward trend began in 1994, the report said.
Federal and local officials attribute the decline to partnerships between police and community and business leaders.
In the Baltimore region, for example, city and county police departments joined to launch a Regional Auto Theft Task Force, and Baltimore County police began a Business Patrol Initiative, working with business leaders to target crime problems. Many of the area's specialized units have begun with federal and state funding and - if successful - are sustained with local money.
The decrease in crime "demonstrates that the innovative and collaborative policies and programs among federal state and local law enforcement work," Attorney General Janet Reno said.
The Justice Department statistics are generally broken down into two categories: violent crimes, which include homicides, rapes, robberies and assaults, and property crimes, which include burglary, thefts and motor vehicle thefts.
Justice Department data, compiled from surveys of more than 77,000 people, are intended to include both reported and unreported crimes.
According to the department, 32.8 violent crimes occurred for every 1,000 Americans older than age 11 in 1999, compared with 36.6 in 1998. There were 198 property crimes for every 1,000 Americans older than 11 in 1999, compared with 217.4 in 1998.
"While there were decreasing trends in violent crime at all income levels, the decrease was greatest among persons with lowest incomes," less than $7,500 annually, the report found.
The survey also found differences by race in the probability someone would become a victim of crime. According to the report, 42 blacks of every 1,000 are exposed to crime, compared with 34 Hispanics, 32 whites and 25 out of the remaining minority groups for every 1,000 in those categories.
In Baltimore, officials reported a 3.6 percent decrease in violent crime for the first nine months of last year and an 11 percent decrease in property crime for the same time period.
In Baltimore County, officials reported that overall crime fell last year to its lowest rate since 1985. Compared with 1998, violent crimes dropped 9.6 percent and property crimes 11.2 percent. Baltimore County police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan attributed the drop to strong ties forged with community and business leaders.
In Anne Arundel County, officials reported a 0.8 percent drop in violent crimes and a 1.2 percent decrease in property crimes from 1998 to 1999.
In Howard County, violent crimes increased 9.1 percent, fueled by a sharp spike in robberies, while property crimes decreased 0.2 percent. Police responded by creating a robbery unit in April last year, which they said has been successful. Robberies dropped by half, to 63, during the first six months of this year, compared with the same period last year.