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Number of crimes in city dipped

Crime in Largo dropped by 6.4 percent from 2004 to 2005, according to a report released Tuesday night by the Police Department.

The department tracked crimes such as homicide, robbery, rape, burglary, theft and arson, police Chief Lester Aradi told the City Commission at its work session.

While the city's population increased from 72,817 in 2004 to 75,358 in 2005, the number of those serious crimes has decreased, from 3,105 to 2,905.

The city had the lowest number of reported offenses and the lowest crime rate among the larger cities in Pinellas County in 2004, the most recent year for which the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has compiled the statistics, Aradi's report said.

From 2003 to 2004, there had been a 0.3 percent increase in the number of serious offenses.

"I want to compliment the chief," said Commissioner Andy Guyette. "You have been getting a handle on crime in the city."

Since Aradi took the helm in 2001, he instituted crackdowns in crime-ridden areas and a variety of policies to get the public involved in crime prevention. But he has also had the police force concentrate on traffic enforcement. That emphasis, Aradi said, has helped cut down on crime.

"I'm of the philosophy that when you drive through Largo and see red and blue lights all over the place, you get the impression that police are everywhere," Aradi told the commissioners.

In 2005, 20,750 traffic citations were issued in the city.

Despite the beefed-up traffic enforcement, crashes have increased, Aradi noted, from 2,557 in 2004 to 2,624 in 2005.

But Aradi said he believes his department's efforts have decreased the severity of crashes. There were 17 fatal crashes in 2004, and nine last year, department figures show.

Aradi told commissioners that fighting crime is one of the city's "superior services."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at 445-4155 or at lorri@spttmes.com.

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