TAMPA — Serious crimes decreased in number by 16.2 percent in Hillsborough County last year, the Sheriff's Office said Tuesday. It's the fourth straight year that crime has dropped.
Last year, 31 of every 1,000 residents in unincorporated Hillsborough were crime victims. Just four years ago, that ratio was 45 in 1,000.
"And we didn't spend any more money," said sheriff's Col. Albert Frost. "It's just a refocusing of resources."
Law enforcement agencies compile annual statistics on murder, sex offenses, robbery, larceny, burglary, vehicle theft and aggravated assault and report them to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program.
All categories except murder decreased last year in unincorporated Hillsborough. There were 36 reported murders, two more than in 2009.
The most dramatic drops were in robbery (a 28.4 percent decrease) and vehicle theft (a 25.3 percent decrease).
The Sheriff's Office attributes the declines to proactive police work, namely its Law Enforcement Intelligence Nexus Center. The center was established about three years ago to pinpoint crime patterns and stop the people who commit most of the crimes.
Detectives and crime analysts use data — including police reports, MySpace postings and observations from other agencies — to predict where criminals will strike next.
Still, it's hard to predict homicides, he said. Most times, killers know their victims, Frost said. But because homicides are such an anomaly, it's not the same as tracking a known burglar.
Tampa police numbers won't be released until later this month, but during a recent speech, police Chief Jane Castor said the department saw a 12.4 percent reduction in crime in 2010.
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3433.