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State crime rate edges up; violent crimes decline

Crime went up in the Tampa Bay area in the first half of this year, driven by an increase in burglaries, larcenies and car thefts in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

Statewide, the number of reported crimes edged up a little bit, even as violent crimes dropped slightly, state officials said Thursday.

Data from police agencies showed that from January through June the total number of crimes in Florida, 442,604, rose 0.7 percent compared with the same period last year.

Nonviolent crimes, such as burglary and theft, drove the increase, edging up by 1.1 percent. Violent crimes, such as murder, rape, robbery and assault, were down 1.6 percent from last year, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The state had 426 murders in the first six months of the year, up slightly from 409 in the same 2001 period. But rape and other forcible sex offenses saw a decrease, as did aggravated assault.

"It's heartening to see this significant decrease in violent crime," said FDLE Commissioner Tim Moore.

The overall increase doesn't take into account the increase in the state's population, so the FDLE figures make no comparison between crime rates this year and last.

In the Tampa Bay area, the number of nonviolent crimes rose noticeably in the first half of this year compared with last year, according to the FDLE.

Crime went up 7.1 percent in Pinellas County, mainly because larcenies rose from 13,710 to 14,763; and car thefts rose from 1,749 to 2,136. Crime rose by 11.2 percent in St. Petersburg and 18.6 percent in Pinellas Park.

The numbers of murders and rapes in Pinellas were virtually unchanged, but robberies dropped from 876 to 823.

Crime went up 5.1 percent in Hillsborough County, mainly because burglaries rose from 5,988 to 6,526; and car thefts rose from 5,243 to 6,283. The number of violent crimes stayed steady in Hillsborough, although assaults dropped from 3,953 to 3,570.

North Suncoast counties saw little difference. Crime in Citrus and Hernando counties increased by 1.7 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. Crime in Pasco County dropped by 3.2 percent, mainly because of a reported decrease in burglaries and assaults.

The data the FDLE collects are forwarded to the FBI for a national compilation of crime statistics.