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FBI report: Utah is relatively safe for people, less so for their stuff

Published September 24, 2013 9:30 am

Crime • SLC focusing on educating people to prevent property crime and lower the numbers.
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Utah is still one of the safest states in the country, despite some recent upticks in crime, including noticeable jumps in Salt Lake City property crimes.

Violent crime rose slightly statewide in 2012, new FBI data show. Accounting for murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, nearly 5,900 violent crimes were committed in Utah last year — up about 4 percent from the previous year.

But the state's rate of violent crimes per 100,000 people was the sixth-lowest in the U.S. in 2012, behind Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wyoming. In 2011, Utah had the third-lowest rate.

The 50 murders reported in Utah in 2012 were the exact number as the previous year, according to the FBI. There have been at least 40 homicides so far this year (a count kept by The Salt Lake Tribune).

The numbers paint a picture of a relatively safe state overall.

Lara Jones, Salt Lake City police spokeswoman, said that "We tend to look out for each other in Utah and Salt Lake City."

Salt Lake City police Detective Rick Wall, who has overseen the capital's neighborhood-watch program for six years, said that there are hundreds of neighborhood-watch groups in the city, made up of almost 6,000 people. Two adjacent neighborhoods in the city have notably different crime stats — one has a watch group, the other does not.

"It always seems to be when people take notice and get involved, it has a positive effect," Wall said.

But there is still work to be done when it comes to property crime. Utah ranked in the middle of pack with 206 such crimes per 100,000 people. The FBI's property-crime list includes burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson. Crimes in this category shot up 12 percent in Salt Lake City. The Police Department has noticed the uptick and made it a priority to teach people how they can keep their property safe, Jones said.

During the annual Night Out Against Crime event in early August, Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank challenged citizens to reduce property crime by 25 percent within a year. Police officials say about one-quarter of all property crimes happen when people leave items out in the open or unattended.

"We're trying to get the message out there to the community and give them some education… and we've done a relatively good job," Wall said. "We pride ourself in getting out in the community."

Community-intelligence unit officers regularly attend community council meetings to share prevention tips.

At the end of May, officers went door to door in the Liberty Wells neighborhood in light of an uptick in theft and reminded people to lock their doors and windows, close their garages and secure all the belongings in their yards.

"We try to educate the people on what they can do to prevent themselves from becoming a victim of a crime," Wall said.

The number of cars reported stolen decreased statewide in 2012, but rose 15 percent in Salt Lake City. Last month, city police cautioned owners of older-model Hondas to be on high alert after 450 of these cars were reported stolen.

The eight murders in Salt Lake City were the most of any Utah city in 2012, up from six in 2011. So far this year, there have been at least seven.

Violent crime and property crime inched up only slightly in West Valley City, the state's second-largest city, while murders decreased. There was just one murder in 2012, down from four the previous year.

Nationally, violent crime increased by less than 1 percent, while the property crime rate dropped about 1 percent, FBI data show.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.