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Pinellas' crime rate jumps on rise in property offenses

Crime in Pinellas County rose sharply in the first half of the year compared with the rest of Florida, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The number of crimes reported in Pinellas County increased 9.1 percent thanks to a rise in property crimes: robbery, burglary and larceny. Florida saw a 1.6 percent increase in total crimes.

The statistics compare crimes reported from January through June 2008 with those reported in the first six months of 2007.

They show that in Pinellas, larceny rose 14 percent, robbery 11 percent and burglary 10 percent.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said it saw about a 5 percent increase in total crime in the unincorporated area and the 10 cities its deputies patrol.

Sheriff Jim Coats, who is running for re-election, expressed his disappointment at that.

"I think a large portion of it is attributable to the economic conditions we find ourselves in," he said. "And we have fewer resources than we previously had, too."

But that doesn't mean all crime went up. Some categories, including violent offenses, fell or saw negligible gains in Pinellas.

Violent crime across Florida dropped 2.4 percent. It fell 3.5 percent in unincorporated Pinellas. The St. Petersburg Police Department's numbers show a 22 percent drop in violent crimes, but that doesn't tell the whole story.

There were actually more murders (15 in 2008, compared with 11 in 2007) and robberies (532 to 507) in the city. The drop mainly reflects a steep decline in reported aggravated assaults.

But there is one statistic that the Sheriff's Office and Police Department both took pride in: fewer vehicles are being reported stolen in the county.

Pinellas County, as a whole, reported a 20 percent drop, or 406 fewer stolen vehicles.

St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Proffitt credited an effort to identify the most egregious juvenile offenders and send them to secure facilities.

"When we started seeing those people going away we saw auto thefts come down," he said.

Coats credited his agency's efforts to educate citizens on how to prevent such crimes. In other words, people may finally be locking their vehicles.

In other counties, Hernando saw a 5.9 percent increase from last year, Hillsborough crime dropped 3.5 percent and Pasco increased just 0.2 percent.

Pinellas' crime rate jumps on rise in property offenses 10/14/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 16, 2008 5:14pm]
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