City shows slight drop in major crimes in '07

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Crime in Pittsburgh dropped in most major categories last year, mirroring nationwide declines in both violent and property offenses, according to FBI statistics released this week.

The FBI's preliminary Uniform Crime Report shows 3,455 violent crimes -- murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- reported in Pittsburgh last year, a slight decrease of about 0.52 percent, down from 3,473 in 2006. Violent crime nationwide dropped 1.4 percent. Property crime -- burglary, theft and car theft -- fell by 8.6 percent in the city and 2.1 percent nationwide.

But while aggravated assault dropped 1.2 percent nationally, the report shows a 5.3 percent uptick locally. The number of rapes also rose. It's hard to say what caused the increase, Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson said yesterday.

"It's still a very vicious and violent society," Chief Donaldson said. Nevertheless, he noted that the number of gun-related aggravated assaults dropped from 660 in 2006 to 509 in 2007, thanks in part to ongoing police efforts to pull illegal firearms from the streets. Pittsburgh police arrest about 600 people for possessing illegal firearms and recovered more than 1,000 guns, but those numbers haven't changed much over the past five years, he said.

Police saw an increase in aggravated assaults with knives and situations where objects such as rocks were thrown at occupied vehicles, but, again, it was unknown why, Chief Donaldson said.

The FBI reported 53 homicides in 2007, but the Police Bureau reported there were 57 last year. Chief Donaldson said such discrepancies could be due to differences in the way the agencies classify certain crimes. The FBI's report includes totals for the city only and could change by the time final statistics are released later this year.

"[Crime] is as high as ever, and we still have a long way to go," said Jay Donaldson, whose group will hold an anti-violence rally at 11 a.m. Saturday at West Park on the North Side. Mr. Donaldson's 18-year-old son, Jehru, was shot and killed in July. Twin brothers Devon and Jovon Knox were found guilty of second-degree murder in the crime Monday. "If [violence] has slowed down, we want that to continue."

Mr. Donaldson is no relation to the deputy chief.

There were 1,597 reported robberies in Pittsburgh, compared with 1,722 in 2006. There were also 129 rapes last year, up from 102 reported in 2006.

Excluding an increase in arsons -- 79 last year, up from 70 in 2006 -- property crime fell in every category. There were 3,418 burglaries compared with 3,713 in 2006; 8,977 thefts compared with 9,658 in 2006; and 1,538 motor vehicle thefts compared with 1,865 in 2006.


Sadie Gurman can be reached at sgurman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878.


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