The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the percentage of households "touched by crime" dropped significantly between 1981 and 1991. A household is considered to be touched by crime if any of its members experienced a burglary, property theft, or assault, regardless of where the incident took place. In 1981, the figure stood at 30 percent of American households. Ten years later, it was 23.7 percent.
University of Pennsylvania criminologist Marvin Wolfgang warns that experts "are very bad at predicting" crime trends but notes that the most meaningful variable is the number of 15-to-24-year-old men in the general population. In 1980, 10 percent of the population fell into that category. A decade later, the figure stood at 8 percent, roughly the same share it is projected to be in 2000.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Crime Story".