The number of crimes reported at Yale dropped dramatically last year, continuing a trend that began nearly 10 years ago.

The University saw a 14 percent drop in reported crimes in 2000, from 583 to 501, according to Yale’s Uniform Crime Report, which the Yale Police Department released Thursday. Since 1996, campus crime has dropped over 30 percent.

“None of us here can remember such a big decrease,” Yale Police Chief James Perrotti said of the 14 percent figure.

Every police agency in the country files a Uniform Crime Report with the FBI. The report lists reported murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, larcenies and stolen cars.

Perrotti said Yale officials — including Yale President Richard Levin, University Secretary Linda Lorimer and the Yale Corporation — have made campus safety one of their top priorities.

Levin attributed Yale’s decreasing crime rate over the past decade to an increased emphasis on security resulting from the murder of Christian Prince ’93 on Hillhouse Avenue in 1991.

Subsequent to the murder, Yale made a major investment in installing emergency blue phones, increased the size of the YPD and transferred many secondary police responsibilities to an expanded security force, which had previously served only the medical school.

“That’s giving us more time to focus on what’s going on on the streets,” Perrotti said.

Levin also cited improved lighting across the campus and YPD programs as major factors in decreasing crime.

And the University’s efforts have been showing up across the boards, especially in the category of larceny, which is the most frequent crime on campus and dropped 37 percent.

The 2000 data does include one crime coded as a rape, where 1999 had none.

Police said the incident was an attempted sexual assault that took place in a Yale parking garage on Howard Avenue near the medical school. An unidentified man followed a woman into the garage and began to struggle with her but fled when he realized security cameras were monitoring the area.

Security and police officers responded rapidly. The woman, who was on the medical campus for a job interview, was not seriously injured and the incident remains under investigation.

The only other category showing an increase was auto theft, which rose from 13 incidents to 16.

Perrotti attributed the higher number of car thefts to three teenage thieves who stole several cars from University lots and many more in the area before being apprehended in February.

But Yale’s overall statistics are uniformly positive — and hardly unique.

New Haven has also seen a decade-long decrease in its overall crime rate that continued through the first six months of 2000, the last period for which data are available. The New Haven Police Department’s community policing strategy, instituted in the early 1990s, has become a model for cities across the country.

Through June 2000, New Haven did have an increase in the number of murders over the first six months of 1999 — three to 10 — but Police Chief Melvin Wearing and Mayor John DeStefano Jr. have said they believe the increase is neither explainable nor a sign of a trend. The city’s overall crime numbers seem to support such assertions.

While New Haven’s crime data for all of 2000 will not be available until next month, preliminary numbers for the second half look promising.

“From what we do have up until this point, the indication is that we still have a decrease in overall crime,” NHPD spokeswoman Judith Mongillo said.

Advances at Yale and in New Haven have largely mirrored a similar trend nationwide. In the past few years the United States has reached rates that have not been seen since in decades, although FBI’s crime index for the first six months of 2000 dropped only 0.3 percent from the same period in 1999.

But no matter how well the YPD has done in combating campus crime, Perrotti said there is always more work to do.

“We want to try to make everyone’s perception that this is a secure environment, this is a safe place to go to school,” he said. “It’s going to take continual maintenance.”