Morning Sentinel
Crime statistics show increase in rural areas
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BY DOUG HARLOW
Staff Writer
Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel 05/19/2009

BY DOUG HARLOW

Staff Writer

Crime in Maine rose slightly in 2008, with rural crime rising nearly 7 percent and crime in Maine's urban areas trending downward.

The 2008 increase in crime was 0.6 percent, according to figures released Monday by the Maine Department of Public Safety. That compares with a 3.4 percent decline in overall crime in 2007.

The homicide total in Maine in 2008 -- 31 -- was the highest in the state since 1989. There were 21 homicides in Maine in 2007.

Public Safety Commissioner Anne H. Jordan said the other crime categories that registered increases in number in 2008 were assault -- both aggravated and simple assault -- and theft.

All other categories dipped, including robbery, burglary, rape and domestic violence.

By comparison, Maine residents saw a decrease in crime in 2007 of 3.4 percent and increases totaling 5 percent during the two previous years.

"Despite a recent rash in armed robberies and a number of suspicious deaths this year, Maine continues to be one of the safest states in the country," Jordan said in the report.

Both aggravated and simple assaults increased for the second year in a row.

Aggravated assaults during 2008 increased 2.5 percent, with 813 reported cases, against 793 cases in 2007. Simple assaults increased 2.7 percent, with 11,570 cases in 2008 versus 11,264 cases in 2007, the report shows.

Aggravated assault involves serious bodily injury or the use of a dangerous weapon, while simple assault does not.

Robberies decreased for the second year in a row, according to the report. In 2008, robberies declined 4.9 percent, with 332 cases against 349 cases in 2007. Robberies also had been down nearly 9 percent in 2007.

Robberies in the preceding five years had increased a total of 30.1 percent.

Burglaries in Maine in 2008 decreased 2.4 percent, with 6,516, versus 6,677 in 2007. They also had dropped the year before.

Overall reported thefts across the state increased in 2008 by 2.2 percent.

The commissioner said reported rape-sexual assaults decreased 5.1 percent in 2008, with 373 reported cases in 2008, versus 393 cases reported in 2007.

Domestic-violence assaults also decreased 8 percent in 2008, with 5,311 reported in 2008, versus 5,771 in 2007.

Jordan said last year's rape and domestic-violence numbers reversed three consecutive years of increases.

"Maine continues to work to reduce this violence against women, and victims are more willing to report the crimes," she said in the report.

Jordan encouraged victims of sexual assault and domestic violence to contact police, as well as support groups. The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence phone number is (866) 834-4357; its Web address is www.mcedv.org.

The Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault's phone number is (800) 871-7741; its Web address is www.mecasa.org.

Arson reports decreased 22.6 percent in Maine during 2008, with 188 cases, versus 243 cases in 2007.

The value of the property damaged by arson fires also decreased, to an estimated $3.1 million during 2008, compared to $3.8 million during 2007.

Motor-vehicle thefts decreased 6.9 percent in 2008, with 1,173 cases in 2008, as opposed to 1,260 cases in 2007.

Overall crime in rural areas, patrolled by state police and sheriffs' departments, showed an increase of 6.6 percent in 2008.

Rural crimes that increased in 2008 were aggravated assault, up 19.8 percent; burglary, 8.1 percent; larceny and theft, 5.6 percent; and motor-vehicle theft, 10.4 percent.

Crimes that went down in the rural areas were robbery, showing a drop of 48.3 percent from the previous year; rape, down 15.2 percent; arson, down 60.7 percent; and simple assault, down 1 percent.

Crime in urban areas decreased 0.7 percent in 2008. Urban areas are communities with full-time police departments.

Urban crimes showing increases were larceny and theft, up 1.5 percent and simple assault, up 3.8 percent. Urban crime on the decrease in 2008 were rape, down 2.5 percent; robbery, down 0.9 percent; aggravated assault, 2.1 percent; burglary; down 7.8 percent, motor-vehicle theft, down 14.8 percent; and arson, down 9.9 percent.

The Uniform Crime Reporting Division at the Maine Department of Public Safety tabulates the crime numbers each year. The numbers are based on crimes reported by local, county and state law-enforcement agencies.

The statistics show that 34,008 crime-index offenses were reported to police during 2008, compared to 33,796 during 2007, for a total crime rate increase of 0.6 percent.

Offenses comprising the crime index include murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson. The 34,008 crimes reported in 2008 represent a crime rate of 25.8 offenses per 1,000 people within Maine, which was the same in 2007.

Nationally, the crime rate was 37.5 offenses per 1,000 people in 2007. The 2008 national crime rate is not available yet.

The total number of adults and juveniles arrested, summoned or cited by police decreased in 2008.

Adult arrests dropped 1.2 percent and juvenile arrests decreased 3.5 percent during 2008.

Juvenile arrests have dropped in Maine in four of the past five years, for a total drop of 29.4 percent during that five-year period.

The value of property stolen during 2008 was $27.90 million, compared to $27.45 million 2007.

Police recovered $6.9 million worth of stolen property during 2008, for a recovery rate of 24.8 percent.

The crime rate for violent crime in Maine for 2008 was one offense per 1,000 of population, compared to the national average of 4.7 per 1,000 for 2007.

"Crime in Maine" is the annual publication of reported crime statistics from the Uniform Crime Reporting Division.

Past "Crime in Maine" numbers will be posted on the Department of Public Safety's Web page later in the summer at www.Maine.gov/dps.

Doug Harlow -- 474-9534, ext. 342

dharlow@centralmaine.com

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