Crime down sharply, especially in the suburbs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans experienced significantly fewer violent crimes in 1995 than in 1994, with rates for such acts as rape, robbery and assault down by 12.4 percent, the Justice Department said Sunday.
The broadest decline happened in the suburbs, where crime rates dropped in all areas of personal victimization except rape and sexual assault.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics said the fall was the largest recorded since the bureau began taking its annual National Crime Victimization Survey in 1973.
“Four years ago, we made a commitment to take our streets back from crime and violence. We had a comprehensive plan,” President Clinton said. “Our plan is working.”
He said in a written statement that the statistics, which covered the first full year of his crime act of 1994, reflect the largest drop in violent crime in 22 years. He credited the act.
Attorney General Janet Reno said the figures continued a downward trend in violent crime that has been reflected in every year of the Clinton administration.
Republicans said crime figures remain much too high. And some experts said the administration is reaping the benefit of a baby boomer generation mellowed with age.
Among white residents age 12 and older, the survey showed overall violent crime declined 12.8 percent. Aggravated assault among whites dropped 24.7 percent.
The decline was less dramatic for black Americans.
“Although there was some evidence of a decline in violent crimes rates for black men and women (down 10.4 percent), the only statistically significant change for them was a 24 percent drop in aggravated assault,” the report said.
Preliminary figures were released in September, and Clinton boasted of them during his presidential re-election campaign.
Rep. Bill McCollum, a Florida Republican, said because Clinton signed the crime bill in September 1994, it probably had little effect on crime in 1995. McCollum also said Americans should brace themselves for a jump in crime as the number of teen-agers increases over the next few years.
“We shouldn’t feel too secure,” McCollum said. “Crime is not down nearly enough, and it’s going to go back up.”
A Northeastern Univer-sity crime expert agreed that the crime bill wasn’t solely responsible for the good statistics but said he believed the decrease can be long-term.
Jack Levin, director of the university’s Program for the Study of Violence, said the aging population contributed to the decline, but parents should receive some credit because they’re getting tougher with wayward teen-agers and taking parenting more seriously.
“The baby boomers are mellowing out. They are no longer committing the high-risk violent offenses, like armed robbery and aggravated assault,” he said.
“And for last 20 or 25 years, we’ve asked our teen-agers to raise themselves. … We’re finally doing the right thing. We’re getting back into the business of supervising our youngsters. We haven’t done that for 20 years.”
Justice officials compile the statistics annually based on interviews with 100,000 people above 11 years old about crimes they experienced in the previous six months. The survey includes both crimes reported to police and those that went unreported.
The survey excludes murder, since officials can’t question the victims.
Urban areas saw a 10.7 percent drop in other violent crimes, compared with declines of 15.1 percent in the suburbs and 11 percent in rural areas.