S. Utah communities see drop in crime rates

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ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) -- Data from a statewide crime survey shows a downturn in the annual rate of serious crimes in many southern Utah communities.

Preliminary data from the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification released last month shows a drop in the number of robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, thefts and stolen vehicles across Washington County between 2008 and 2009.

Then, as the boom settled and went away, people that had those jobs moved away. So likewise, you're going to see a decrease in population and the number of crimes committed and reported.

–Officer Johnny Heppler

The Spectrum of St. George reports the downward trend was also seen in nearby Beaver and Iron counties, although Iron County saw an increase in the number of reported rape and arson cases. Iron County also had the highest per-capital rate of crimes overall.

Only Kane County bucked the trend, reporting a sharp increase in overall total crime. Report data shows a spike in theft cases -- or larcenies -- countywide. In the city of Kanab, for example, larcenies tripled from 28 to 107.

Among southern Utah cities, St. George has the largest population and had the highest per-capita rate of overall crime. Hurricane and Washington City were second and third on the list.

Still, St. George, which posts its data monthly online for the public, saw a significant decrease in crimes against persons between 2008 and 2009. That follows double double-digit percentage increases in 2004, 2005 and 2007 and a 22 percent decrease between 2007 and 2008.

A decade-long construction boom brought a large population increase, which coincided with an upswing in crime, St. George Police Public Information Officer Johnny Heppler said.

"Then, as the boom settled and went away, people that had those jobs moved away. So likewise, you're going to see a decrease in population and the number of crimes committed and reported," he said.

Closely tracking data can help police departments target enforcement and prevention efforts to reduce crime, Heppler said. St. George, for example followed data on incidents of graffiti to increase enforcement and install lighting in critical areas that led to a 42 percent reduction in the crime in 2007.

But police also say it's difficult to associate statistically significant swings in the crime rate with long-term changes. That's particularly true in smaller, bedroom communities that don't rack up big city crime numbers.

In Ivins, for example, the number of burglaries were cut in half between 2008 and 2009. But police found one person was responsible for about 35 percent of the crimes, the city's Public Safety Chief Robert Flower said.

"So we arrest that person and you're going to see a big decrease the following year," he said.


(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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