Fresno's crime count down

Fresno was a safer place to live in 2007, according to local crime figures in the FBI Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report made public Monday.

There were 14% fewer violent crimes and 10% fewer property crimes in Fresno in 2007 than in 2006.

Fresno's crime statistics mirrored the national reduction in both violent and property crimes. Violent crimes declined by nationally by 1.4% from 2006, reversing two years of rising violent crime numbers. Property crimes were down 2.1% last year, the largest drop in the last four years.

The FBI collects nationwide crime figures from local law enforcement agencies in eight categories, from violent crimes like murder to property crimes like burglary.

In four other Valley cities with more than 100,000 population -- Bakersfield, Modesto, Stockton and Visalia -- trends were mixed. Violent crimes were down in Visalia and Stockton, but were up in Bakersfield and Modesto.

Fresno had the same number of murders (52) in 2007 and 2006. There were fewer crimes in all other categories for which the FBI keeps figures.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said the drop in crime is due to police keeping real-time crime stats.

"Every morning by 5 a.m. we know exactly what our crime trends are in the city, up to that time," Dyer said. "Then we can get on it very quickly."

Decreasing aggravated assaults can help prevent murders and cutting back vehicle thefts can prevent crimes in which stolen vehicles are used, Dyer said.

Violent crimes -- murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- were down 14% overall in Fresno during 2007. The biggest drop was 26% fewer forcible rape cases.

Property crimes overall were down 10% in Fresno because the number of all crimes in that category -- burglaries, thefts, vehicle thefts and arsons -- were down. The biggest drop was 19% fewer vehicle thefts. Nationwide, vehicle thefts were down 8.9%.

The Fresno Fire Department supplied figures for arson, down by 15% in 2007.

Visalia's violent crime was down 23%. The FBI report lists Visalia's population at 116,766, making the city about a fourth the size of Fresno, with a population listed at 472,170.

Visalia had a 50% increase in the number of murders in 2007, with 12, up from eight in 2006.

Sgt. Allyn Wightman, Visalia police spokesman, said six of the 12 murders in 2007 were gang-related. Visalia usually has about 12 murders a year, he said.

Visalia's property crimes were down by 20%. Like Fresno, Visalia also had a decrease in vehicle thefts, with 41% fewer crimes.

Bakersfield, with a population listed at 318,743, had a 25% increase in violent crimes and a 1% increase in property crimes.

Modesto's population is listed at 208,067. The city had a 5% increase in violent crimes, with no increase in the number of murders but a 10% increase in aggravated assault. Modesto's property crimes were up 2%, with a 26% increase in burglaries.

Stockton, with a population listed at 297,170, had 2% fewer violent crimes overall, but 3% more rapes and 6% more robberies. The city had 5% fewer property crimes, including 23% fewer vehicle thefts.