Washington (CNN) -- Violent crime in the United States continues to drop significantly despite the difficult economic environment, according to new statistics released Friday by the Justice Department.
According to the Crime Victimization Survey released annually by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2010 violent crimes dropped about 13% among U.S. residents ages 12 or older.
Crime has been declining for several years, but the decline reported by the survey for past year was about three times as great as annual declines recorded by the same survey during the previous nine years.
The Justice Department attributed much of the decline to a sharp drop in the number of simple assaults.
Criminologists have repeatedly told CNN in recent years the declining figures are surprising inasmuch as crime has historically increased in times of economic stress.
A clearer picture of crime in the United States is likely to emerge from a major FBI report scheduled for release Monday morning. The closely watched FBI Uniform Crime Report also is expected to show a continuing drop in violent crime throughout 2010. That report, based on detailed reporting by all of the nation's police agencies, provides breakdowns in all subcategories of crime.
A preliminary FBI report for the first half of 2010 showed a decline in violent crime of 5.5 percent. That is expected to hold up for the entire calendar year.
The Justice Department Victimization Survey, which provides numbers of victims based on an extensive telephone survey, does not include statistics for murder. It cites figures for rape, robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault. Almost two-thirds of violent crime "victimizations" occurring during 2010 were simple assaults in which the victim did not suffer an injury, the Justice Department survey found.