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Monday, December 28, 1998 Published at 18:24 GMT

World: Americas

US crime hits record low

Violent crime has dropped by 21% in four years

Crime in the US is at its lowest level in nearly 25 years, according to official figures.

The US Justice Department survey for 1997 showed that although rape and sexual assaults remained the same, overall crime has fallen by nearly 7% since 1996.

Violent crime has fallen by more than 21% since 1993 when national crime rates were more heavily influenced by drug- and gang-driven crime.

The National Crime Victimization Survey interviewed about 80,000 people in 43,000 homes across America.

It showed the nation's crime rate drop from 37 million in 1996 to 35 million and from 44 million in 1973, the year the survey began.

The survey, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, also showed a steep 17% decline in robbery rates.

President Bill Clinton claimed the credit for the figures, saying in a written statement: "These new figures again show that our strategy of more police, stricter gun laws, and better crime prevention is working".

Robbery rates falling

Non-violent crime rates are also at their lowest rates since 1973.

There were an estimated 248 attempted or completed property crimes per 1,000 US households last year, compared to 266 during 1996. The figure was 319 in 1993 and 554 in 1973.

The survey aimed to gauge how many people are crime victims, regardless of whether victims report the incident to police.

Although it excluded murder because individuals were asked about their own experiences, FBI statistics showed murder, too, has fallen by 8%.

The FBI also reported a 2% drop in major crimes last year and a 7% overall drop in crime since 1993.

As in past surveys, men and younger people were more likely to be victims of violent crime than women and older people. Blacks experienced higher crime rates than other races.

About half of all violent crimes last year were committed by someone known to the victim.

In 1997, victims reported only four in every 10 crimes, whether violent or non-violent.

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