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Valley cities see decrease in crime

October 30, 2001|By SAM SCOTT, Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — Crime in El Centro dropped nearly 13 percent from 1999 to 2000, an analysis of FBI figures released this week indicates.

Brawley experienced an even bigger drop — 21 percent, but Calexico saw a 6.7 percent rise, according to FBI crime reports.

The decrease in crime in Brawley and El Centro contrasted with a slight nationwide increase in crime in cities with populations under 50,000 like El Centro, Brawley and Calexico.

Brawley's drop can't be pinned on one thing, said Lt. Henry Graham, acting chief of the Brawley Police Department.

He said increases over the past five years in the number of officers as well as in funding for programs such as bike patrols have helped.

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"I'd say it's a combination of all our efforts," Graham said.

Calexico police Cmdr. Mario Sanchez said his city's higher numbers could be deceptive — an increase in reported crimes might be the result of more effective policing.

"If crimes go down, maybe officers are not making contact with victims or people are not reporting," Sanchez said.

Compiled annually since 1930, the FBI crime report tallies murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft and auto theft. Across the county, crime held virtually steady, declining .2 percent, the smallest year-to-year decrease since 1991.

Violent crimes — murder, rape, robbery and assault — recorded their lowest volume since 1985.

The FBI advises against making assumptions about reasons for changes in the numbers. A rise in crime might be the result of increased criminal activity or it might be the result of a police crackdown.

"It's very difficult to pinpoint why crime is going up or going down," said Paul Bresson, spokesman for the FBI. "This is just the raw data."

El Centro's biggest percentage decrease was in rapes, which dropped from 14 reported cases in 1999 to four last year — a 71 percent change. Aggravated assault cases increased 6.7 percent to 303.

Brawley's biggest drop last year was in burglaries, which decreased nearly 32 percent to 179 cases. Aggravated assault in Brawley increased 9.7 percent to 68 cases, its biggest reported increase.

Assault cases more than halved in Calexico, from 69 cases to 31. Vehicular theft jumped 23.4 percent to 375 cases. Murders held constant in each city — with zero reported in Calexico and one each in Brawley and El Centro in both 1999 and 2000.

FBI statistics may vary slightly from local law enforcement numbers.

The report can be accessed at the FBI's Web site — www.fbi.gov

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