The elderly are less likely to be victims of crime than the general population and their chances of becoming victims continues to decline, a recently released study says.

Victimization rates for all segments of the U.S. population declined from 1973 to 1984, according to Herbert Covey and Scott Menard, University of Colorado-Boulder social scientists.And rates for the elderly declined more rapidly, especially for crimes involving personal contact and economic motivation, the researchers said in a recent issue of the journal "Research on Aging."

"As far as our stats go, from a year and a half ago there was no indication of one age group being victimized more often than another," said Lt. Marty Vuyk, Salt Lake City Police Department spokesman.

But Vuyk said reports by uniformed officers at crimes scenes do not always include the age of the victim.

The statistics never have supported reports of rampant victimization of the elderly, said researcher Menard. The fear of becoming victimized, however, is even greater in some respects for the elderly population.

"The impact of the same crime may be much heavier on an elderly person than on someone younger because of the greater potential for physical harm and economic hardship," Menard said. "Given these factors, the level of fear suffered by the elderly may actually be perfectly reasonable."

The researchers used data collected by the FBI and U.S. Justice Department intheir study.

The pair said fewer teenagers, the age group that typically commits more offenses, in the population may also reflect in the decline of elderly victimizationrates.

"Another thing that you see is you're talking about the element of communication systems. If one elderly person is a victim, the others hear about it," Vuyk said.>