Violent crime in Gresham dropped more than 11 percent, while overall property crime increased about 6 percent in 2011, according to FBI statistics released this week.

The number of violent crimes — defined as murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault — totaled 416, down nearly 11.5 percent from 470 in 2010 — according to the FBI’s annual Crime in the United States report for American cities. Property crime — including burglary, larceny/theft and motor-vehicle theft — totaled 4,311, a 6.3 percent increase from 2010’s total of 4,055.

Nationally, violent crime fell for the fifth year in a row, dropping 3.8 percent in 2011. Property crime fell for the ninth year in a row, dropping by .5 percent.

The numbers are part of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which collects data on specific violent and property crimes. More than 18,200 city, county, state, federal, college/university and tribal law enforcement agencies voluntarily contributed data to the report. Oregon cities with more than 100,000 residents take part in the program. They include Portland, Eugene, Salem and Gresham.

Oregon’s rate of violent crime mirrored the national trend, dropping by .6 percent; however, property crime increased 3.4 percent.

Gresham Police Chief Craig Junginger said he’s pleased that the city is following the national and state trend in lower violent crime rates, “but unfortunately we’re not following the national trend in property crime dropping,” he said.

In Gresham, all four categories of violent crimes saw decreases. Murder and non-negligent manslaughter dropped nearly 86 percent from seven cases in 2010 to one in 2011. Forcible rape decreased by 26 percent from 42 cases in 2010 to 31 in 2011. Robbery dropped ever so slightly by 0.2 percent from 176 cases in 2010 to 172 in 2011.

Aggravated assault also decreased by 1.3 percent from 245 cases in 2010 to 212 in 2011.

One of the three categories of property crime — motor-vehicle theft — also dropped 7.5 percent from 667 cases in 2010 to 617 in 2011.

The only two crimes to increase were burglaries and larceny-theft. Burglaries went up 1.1 percent, from 674 in 2010 to 751 in 2011. Larceny-theft increased 8.4 percent, from 2,714 in 2010 to 2,943 in 2011.

Burglary and theft also tend to be crimes of opportunity — an open window or a purse left in open view in a car can be too much temptation to resist, Junginger said.

Junginger also attributes the local increases in those crimes in part to the poor economy, which can create desperation dire enough that people “start stealing stuff,” he said.

The annual crime statistics need to be looked at in the greater context of how many crimes are included, especially in categories with very small numbers, such as murder and manslaughter, Junginger also said.

“When you have low numbers and you’re four or five less than the prior year, it is going to show a significant drop,” he said.

But the city’s crime trends are on point if looked at over a seven-year timeframe, Junginger said. “Overall, in violent crimes, Gresham is trending down.”

So how does Gresham — the state’s fourth largest city with a population of 106,718 — compare to other large cities in Oregon?

Portland saw decreases in the number of murders, from 22 to 20, robberies and motor-vehicle thefts, but increases in rape, aggravated assault, burglary and theft.

In Eugene, rape and motor-vehicle theft dropped, and the murder/manslaughter rate remained at zero. But robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and theft increased.

Salem saw decreases in rapes and theft but increases in murder/manslaughter from 1 to 3, aggravated assault and burglary. The number of robberies and motor-vehicle thefts remained virtually unchanged.

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