Area crime rates increase

Published: Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

Although crime dipped slightly during the first half of 2007 nationwide, the FBI reported Monday, local crime statistics were up in nearly every category.

Nationwide, violent crime - including murders, rapes and robberies - dropped by 1.8 percent between January and June last year, the FBI's preliminary data show. Property crimes also decreased, including a 7.4 percent drop in car thefts and arsons by nearly 10 percent.

But in Gainesville, violent crime rose by about 5 percent when comparing statistics from the first half of 2007 to numbers from the first half of 2006.

"We saw that trend coming," said Lt. Keith Kameg with the Gainesville Police Department. "That was one of the main reasons Chief (Norman) Botsford created the Violent Crimes Task Force to address those numbers. There are some definite issues nationwide dealing with violent crime and we are not immune from it."

The FBI data, compiled from local and state police departments around the nation, offer a snapshot of crime rates over the six-month period. The numbers will not be finalized until later this year.

Across the board, Gainesville saw an increase in crimes including rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and arson, according to the FBI report. The only category that saw a drop locally was vehicle theft, which dropped from 225 cases in the first six months of 2006 to 207 during the same period in 2007, the FBI reported.

Still, the nationwide data appears to indicate an end to two years of rising violent crime rates, which increased by 2.3 percent in 2005 and 1.9 percent in 2006.

"The latest numbers from the FBI are encouraging," Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said. "The report suggests that violent crime remains near historic low levels."

Carr acknowledged some communities continue to face violence, and said the Justice Department "is committed to assisting our state and local partners in combating violent crime wherever it exists."

The data show that violent crime dropped dramatically in big cities with 1 million or more residents, where murders decreased by 6.5 percent and rapes by 14 percent.

Smaller cities and rural areas, however, saw a 1.1 percent increase in violence. And murder rates jumped by 5 percent in suburbs and by 3.2 percent in cities with between 50,000 and 100,000 residents, the FBI reported.

Alice Wallace can be reached at 352-338-3109 or

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