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Violent crime down; some Utahns say they see it

By Jed Boal | Posted - May 24, 2010 at 10:00 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Violent crime nationwide dropped in 2009 for the third year in a row. The FBI numbers show a similar trend here in Utah, and some people see positive changes.

Typically when the economy slides, crime soars; but that's not the trend right now. Those who work to cut crime are not surprised and say they'll intensify their efforts.

The U.S. Attorney's deputy violent crime chief, Carlos Esqueda, credits community action, aggressive prosecution, good police work and cooperation among agencies.

"All the agencies are working well together -- from federal agencies to city, state, county sheriffs offices," Esqueda says. "I think that makes an impact on crime."

For example, the Tongan Crip Gang terrorized Salt Lake neighborhoods for years. Two weeks ago, the U.S. Attorney's Office charged 17 gang members as a criminal organization engaged in murder, robbery and assault; 34 crimes in all.

Take those accused criminals off the streets, and prosecutors say it makes a dent.

"It shows our success. So, when we can prosecute those large number of cases, and those large groups of people, we're going to continue to do so," Esqueda says.

Police say the Tongan Crip Gang has a large presence in Glendale -- a community some say is growing in the right direction. It was easy to find residents who take pride in the safety of the neighborhood.

"You just really get a sense of more community out here," says resident Andy Brown. "I lived in the avenues before this and I know my neighbors better than I did up there."

Sandra Burton, who also lives in Glendale, says she's seen a big change in the neighborhood in recent years.

"[It] used to be gangs pretty much everywhere you went," she says.

Burton used to be in a gang, and moved away to protect her kids. But she insists the neighborhood is safer now.

"My son goes to the elementary school, and he is a straight-A student. I haven't seen any crime," Burton says.

Nationwide, there's certainly no end to violent crime, the FBI report is good news.

The number of murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults fell 5.5 percent in 2009. Nationwide, the murder rate dropped more than 7 percent, and property crime fell for the seventh year in a row.

In Utah, violent crime also dropped in Utah's largest cities. n Salt Lake City, for example, violent crimes dropped by nearly 200 cases. Property crime was also down in most areas of the state. [CLICK HERE to see Utah's 2009 crime stats]

"I'm not surprised by the decrease. I'm happy for it. I think we can do more," Esqueda says.

Though the decrease in violent crime is a great trend, but the prosecutor points out there's still a lot of crime out there, so the numbers do not change their approach.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

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