FBI says serious crime increases in Anchorage

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Serious crime increased in Anchorage in 2012, according to statistics compiled by the FBI, but city officials say the data is not conclusive enough to be declared a trend.

“Our overall average is good,” said Mayor Dan Sullivan. “We don’t particularly let one year, as an anomaly, change what we’re doing.”

Serious crime increased in seven of the eight categories the FBI tracks, the Anchorage Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/1bvNjSC). In data provided by the Anchorage Police Department, the FBI noted increases in murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, vehicle theft and larceny.

Violent crime reports increased 3.8 percent. Property crimes such as burglaries increased 11.5 percent.

A decrease was reported in one category — arson — down from 136 in 2011 to 97 last year.

Through 2011, violent crime reports had decreased for three years and property crimes had dropped for two. Deputy Police Chief Steve Hebbe said the increases in 2012 drew attention in the department.

“That definitely has us looking at it as probably less of an anomaly, and maybe more indicative of what could be the start of a trend,” he said.

A Sullivan spokeswoman, however, said a year of higher crime does not produce a four-year trend.

“Over the course of this administration, the numbers have been lower, and there were fewer crimes reported during 2011 than 30 years ago,” Lindsey Whitt said in a statement.

Hebbe said property crime tends to fluctuate more that violent crime. There were nearly 1,100 more reports of crimes — 9,455 in 2011 and 10,543 in 2012 — but in some years crime reports have increased or dropped by 1,900 reports, Hebbe said.

Rape reports increased from 283 to 303, but the FBI broadened its definition of the crime last year, Hebbe said.

The FBI report noted police department staffing dropped from 390 officers in 2011 to 372 in 2012. Police Chief Mark Mew has said he expects the number to fall to 335 to 350 officers next year.

Whitt said Sullivan “doesn’t believe that there is a direct correlation with police staffing numbers and crime statistics.”

Police union President Derek Hsieh said it can be dangerous to make conclusions based on crime report differences over one year. But he said the increased numbers are a concern.

“We’re seeing increases in every category, and they’re not minor,” he said. “In conjunction with reduced staffing, which would indicate lower reported crime, we have problems.”

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