Gov't survey confirms violent, property crime drop

The government's most comprehensive crime survey shows violent and property crimes continue to decrease last year even as the nation's economy slumped, confirming an earlier FBI report.

The National Crime Victimization study, released Wednesday by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, showed violent and property crime last year reached the lowest level ever recorded in the survey, which was first published in 1973.

The survey estimated that violent crime dropped by 11.2 percent and property crimes 5.5 percent from 2008 levels. The survey interviews more than 135,000 U.S. residents, so it captures not only crimes reported to the police but also those that went unreported. Studies show more than half of crimes are never reported to the police.

Last month, the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report showed a 5.3 percent drop in reports to police of violent crimes last year and a 4.6 percent decline in reported property crimes.

Professor Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz School of Public Policy, an expert on crime trends who has often advised the government on crime statistics, said the data on crime victims bolster's the FBI's report, which seemed to buck historical trends of higher crime rates during periods of economic distress.

"I think it's encouraging in terms of interpreting the UCR's seemingly anomalous drop in crime," Blumstein said. "That's a reinforcement."

Statisticians are most certain of crime trends when the two crime reports show similar results.