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Overall crime dips in first half of 2002

Crime in Pasco County was down slightly during the first half of this year compared to last, with violent crime down sharply and property crime holding steady during rough economic times, according to a report released Thursday.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement released figures for counties and cities covering the first half of 2002. Compared with the same time in 2001, Pasco's overall number of index crimes _ murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft _ were down 3 percent.

A 19 percent drop in aggravated assaults _ the largest portion of violent crimes _ drove the drop in violent crimes, because murder and rape were up slightly. There were two more murders in the county in the first half of 2002 compared to the first half of 2001, and three more rapes.

Nonviolent crimes _ the vast majority of all reported crimes _ slipped 2 percent in the first six months compared to 2001. Only car thefts ticked upward _ 10 percent.

With most of Pasco County unincorporated, the Pasco Sheriff's Office sees by far the largest number of crimes. Kevin Doll, a Pasco County Sheriff's Office spokesman, said Sheriff Bob White was encouraged by the decrease in crimes, but the agency doesn't study cause and effect with crimes.

"We just try to prevent crime before it happens and react to it when it does," Doll said. He said the numbers mean sheriff's commanders will continue their plan of putting more deputies on the road and using better case management to make arrests.

The numbers come from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, which critics have long said are flawed because they do not measure crimes not reported to police and have no penalties for misreporting numbers.

But the program is the only one of its kind, offering the public a means to compare crime rates.

In Pasco, only Port Richey saw overall crime numbers increase, largely due to a 64 percent increase in property crimes. But that's no secret in Port Richey: A Wal-Mart Supercenter opened up in March 2001, and arrests this year are up 65 percent over 2001 with more than a month to go.

Of the other Pasco cities, New Port Richey was down 3 percent, Zephyrhills down 19 percent and Dade City was down 21 percent.

_ Matthew Waite can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is waitesptimes.com.

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