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Rapes, murders on decrease in Utah

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The number of forcible rapes in Utah's three largest cities decreased in 2002, according to new FBI statistics.

The decrease in reported rapes in Salt Lake City, West Valley City and Provo defies national statistics. Nationwide, the number of reported rapes rose by 4 percent between 2001 and 2002.

Monday, the FBI released preliminary crime statistics for 2002. A breakdown of specific crimes was provided for cities with populations of at least 100,000.

The number of forcible rapes in Salt Lake City dropped from 121 in 2001 to 109 in 2002; in West Valley City, the number fell from 64 to 59; and in Provo, the number dropped from 43 to 37.

Nationally, murders increased by 0.8 percent. But Salt Lake City had a decrease — from 18 murders in 2001 to 11 in 2002. In West Valley City, there were three murders in 2002, up from two murders in 2001. Provo had no murders in 2001 or 2002.

From 2001 to 2002, statistics show a 0.2 percent decrease overall nationally in the number of crimes reported to law-enforcement agencies.

In Salt Lake City's mayoral race, Mayor Rocky Anderson's re-election campaign has touted the city's reduced violent-crime numbers. The campaign has noted a 23 percent reduction in violent crime on the city's west side, and Anderson, during his recent State of the City address, pointed to a 12.4 percent reduction in violent crime citywide. Those figures are based on data from the city's police department.

While violent crime is down, the city saw an increase in its total crime index, according to the FBI report, which may seem to contradict Anderson's campaign literature that states "Rocky has reduced crime through his community-building initiatives."

But Anderson's spokesman, Josh Ewing, said the "broad" campaign statement was reasonable because of the drop in violent crimes, even considering the rise in other types of crime.

The reasons why crime increases are numerous and complex, said Robert Wadman, a criminal justice professor at Weber State University.

A few years ago, Wadman created an index with four factors he found contributed to crime in a community: poverty, unemployment, single-parent families and high school dropouts. When the four factors increase, Wadman found the crime rate also increases.

Wadman was not surprised to hear Provo — with high numbers of two-parent, educated, middle-income families — had no murders in the past two years.

"You'll find (Provo's general crime rate) to be substantially lower than other communities of that size," he said.

Generally, a downturn in the economy is not enough to significantly affect crime, "but of course, Mahatma Gandhi said poverty is the mother of crime," he said.

Nationally, the largest increase in rapes was reported in mid-sized and small cities, the FBI said. Cities of less than 10,000 people and cities with between 100,000 and 250,000 people reported increases of more than 7 percent in the number of rapes in 2002.

Property crimes remained constant nationwide from 2001 to 2002. Increases were reported in burglaries, 1.5 percent, and thefts of motor vehicles, 1.2 percent. The largest declines occurred in arson, which fell by 3.7 percent, and assaults, which were down 2 percent.

The biggest decline in overall crime — 3.3 percent — was reported in the Northeast. The West was the only region to report an increase in overall crime — 2.9 percent.

Contributing: The Associated Press.

E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com