Violent crime in Utah spiked in 2016, an upward trend deemed ‘concerning’ by the state’s public safety boss

From 2015 to 2016, violent crime in Utah jumped 17.6 percent. Homicides were up 42.6 percent and rape was up by more than 10 percent.

“The upward trend of crime in our state is concerning,” Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner Keith Squires said this week in a news release.

The numbers come from a Department of Public Safety report that is comprised of data from 130 agencies. Eleven agencies, representing 1.19 percent of the state, did not participate.

Due to a software change and staffing issues, the report was released this week rather than in fall of 2017, when it was supposed to have been completed.

Going forward, agencies will be required to submit data monthly, and the state plans to release quarterly crime reports.

While there was a jump in violent crime — homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — overall crime only saw a 1.9 percent increase from 2015 to 2016. Also, hate crimes dropped by 3.4 percent and overall arrests fell by more than 4 percent.

The report tallied 77 homicides in 2016, accounting for an average of one homicide every 4.74 days. The Salt Lake Tribune’s unofficial homicide database tracked 63 deaths ruled homicides in 2016. The Tribune database does not include automobile homicides or justified killings, such as fatal police shootings.

The Tribune’s database also shows five suspicious deaths that weren’t ruled homicides by the end of 2016, as well as four killings being investigated as possible self-defense.

The Tribune tracked 67 homicides in 2017.

A gun was used in 55 percent of all 2016 homicides, according to the state data, and 11 percent of all homicides were committed by family members. The relationship between the killer and victim was not known in 42 of the deaths, and 14 of the killings were committed by strangers.

For the 77 homicide victims, there were 107 offenders. White people accounted for 76 of the offenders, while black people accounted for seven. Race was undetermined in seven deaths.

Utahns reported 1,259 rape offenses in 2016, 48 being attempted rapes. Police charged someone in 364 of those crimes, for a clearance rate of 28.9 percent. Those arrested were almost entirely male, and the majority were under the age of 29.

The data shows 1,545 robberies were reported in 2016, accounting for total value of $1,206,899. Police cleared 28 percent of the cases.

Aggravated assaults also saw an increase in 2016, rising 19.7 percent over the previous year. Every month but two saw a jump in aggravated assaults when compared to the same month in 2015.

The most common weapon used was a body part, such as a hand or foot, followed by a knife. Again, the vast majority of offenders were males, most commonly between 20 and 24 years old.

Looking back a decade, state data shows so-called “index crimes” — homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson — dropped significantly from 2007 to 2011.

From 2011 to 2013, there was an increase of about 4,000 crimes reported, but the following year it dropped by about 5,000 reported crimes for a total of 87,615.

In 2015, crime increased to 94,947, and in 2016, 96,788 crimes were reported.

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