Major crimes down 20 percent in 2010 in Victoria

  • 2010 CRIME NUMBERSMurder: Seven, up 600 percent

    Rape: 36, up 6 percent

    Robbery 73, down 10 percent

    Aggravated assault: 263, down 18 percent

    Burglary: 791, down 25 percent

    Theft 2,436, down 20 percent

    Motor vehicle theft: 101, up 6 ...

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  • 2010 CRIME NUMBERSMurder: Seven, up 600 percent

    Rape: 36, up 6 percent

    Robbery 73, down 10 percent

    Aggravated assault: 263, down 18 percent

    Burglary: 791, down 25 percent

    Theft 2,436, down 20 percent

    Motor vehicle theft: 101, up 6 percent

Victoria's overall crime rate dropped nearly 20 percent in 2010, according to statistics released by the Victoria Police Department.

The decrease of class one crimes, the most serious offenses, comes on the heels of a more than 22 percent increase the year before.

"One of our formal organizational goals is to become one of the best law enforcement agencies in the United States," Police Chief Bruce Ure said. "Our 2010 statistics show we just came out of the starting gate."

In particular, the department focused on property crimes this year, like burglary and theft. Those experienced the greatest decrease, dropping 25 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

Ure credited the drop to a more aggressive street patrol, the creation of gang task forces, driver check points, the "day and night" work of detectives and the department's Crime Prevention Unit "getting as creative as anyone in the business."

"Our approach is a team approach to crime," Ure said. "We all work together to try to reduce crime and make citizens feel safer."

Ure also said it's important to point out the community has stepped up when it comes to lowering crime.

"We can preach all day long about crime prevention, but if nobody is listening, then it has no effect," he said. "The most important thing about crime prevention is common sense - removing opportunities for criminals - which is generally very simple."

When it comes to preventing crime, Ure said murders are one of the most difficult to counteract. There were seven murders in 2010, compared with one in 2009.

"We will continue to work on that area. The majority of those were gang-related, so gangs still present a serious challenge for us," Ure said.

Another snag in the mostly positive statistics comes from the nature of the data itself. Exact crime rates are hard to quantify because they only take into account the crimes that were actually reported, said Mark Warr, a criminologist at the University of Texas.

"The crimes that are most often reported to police are violent or personal crimes," Warr said. "Property crimes are among the least reported, and a major reason that people don't report them is they don't think police can do anything about it."

Ure noted that while crime dropped nearly 20 percent, the number of calls to which police responded dropped less than 1 percent.

"People make a big deal out of year-to-year annual fluctuations on crime, but most crimes are fairly rare events," Warr said. "It's nothing more than fairly random fluctuation."

Still, Ure said, he's encouraged by the numbers, which are lower than before the spike in 2009.

Warr said the nation is experiencing a steady decrease in crime, in part because of an aging population, but he also gives credit to good police work.

"There really are significant improvements in policing nationwide, particularly in the computerization of policing," Warr added.

On that point, Warr and Ure can agree.

Ure said he expects new software the department is implementing will help reduce crime even further, calling the technology more analytical and predictive.

"Instead of chasing crime, our goal is to be in front of it," he said. "The predictive analysis will allow us to shift resources to a particular area, even if a crime hasn't been committed. Proactive is the best way to be in law enforcement."