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Crime continues to drop in Tampa and in Hillsborough County

TAMPA — Reported crime dropped in Tampa last year.

It dropped in Hillsborough County, too.

Authorities have noted that fact so many times over the past decade that the news each year is starting to sound tired. But the declines add up to 64 percent in the city and 31 percent in the county since 2001.

This year, 7.3 percent fewer crimes were reported in Tampa, with 15.5 percent fewer in unincorporated Hillsborough.

Tampa police saw drops in some categories and increases in others, but on the whole, the numbers fell. There were fewer burglaries, robberies and auto thefts, though increased reports of some violent crimes — with one more homicide, two more sex offenses and 152 more aggravated assaults than in 2011.

The city noticed the rise in assaults and took action last fall, said police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

Police targeted bars and parts of town where the assaults were concentrated. They held a gun buyback.

And they launched a gun-related operation that's still ongoing, which McElroy said she couldn't discuss.

The first two months of this year show a modest improvement.

"We've been adjusting our deployment and operations," McElroy said.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff's Office saw across-the-board decreases in violent crimes last year, including eight fewer murders (28 in 2011) and an 18 percent decrease in sex offenses.

Robbery dropped 24 percent (to 530), and vehicle thefts were down nearly 20 percent (to 1,193).

Hillsborough's drop in crime reflects a statewide trend.

In Florida, crime has decreased about 33 percent since 1999.

Law enforcement and criminologists have theorized that improved technology, an aging population, smarter policing and the recent economic decline have all contributed to the decrease.

Both the Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough Sheriff's Office attribute their overall declines last year to proactive policing and help from the community.

At the Sheriff's Office, deputies tout their Law Enforcement Intelligence Nexus Center, or LINC, a 3-year-old center that helps deputies predict crime.

Meanwhile, police credit their "Focus on Four" plan, which targets burglary, robbery, auto burglary and auto theft.

Police believe that reducing these offenses gets people who might commit violent offenses off the street and reduces the overall crime rate.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

Crime continues to drop in Tampa and in Hillsborough County 03/06/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 11:51pm]
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