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Vehicle thefts drive rise in crime rate

Murder, rape down; robbery, assault see increase

Crime across the nation is down for the first half of this year, according to statistics released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Violent crime - including murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault - is down 6.4 percent compared to the same time period last year. Property crime - including burglary, larceny-theft and motor-vehicle theft - also is down 3.7 percent. Arson, which isn't included in the property crime totals, is down 8.6 percent nationwide.

In Gresham, however, violent crime is up 4.5 percent and property crime is up 18.6 percent.

Figures in the FBI's Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report were voluntarily submitted by law enforcement agencies across the country. Oregon cities with more than 100,000 residents that took part in the report include Portland, Eugene, Salem and Gresham.

In the violent crime category, Gresham saw a 100-percent drop in murder, with none in the first half of the year compared to six in the first half of 2010, and a 10.5-percent drop in forcible rape. But robbery increased 16 percent with aggravated assault up 5 percent.

Of the property crimes tracked in the report, Gresham's burglary rate remained the same and larceny-theft dropped 4.7 percent. But a nearly 27-percent jump in motor vehicle thefts pushed the overall property-crime statistics up 18.6 percent overall.

Arson declined 34 percent, from 29 in the first half of 2010 to 19 in the second half of 2011.

Gresham Police Chief Craig Junginger said all four major cities in Oregon saw increases in some crimes and decreases in others, so none of the cities are following the national trend that the FBI is reporting.

'But I think the positive thing is we're trending what is normal for the city of Gresham,' he said, adding that bright spots include decreases in homicides and violent gang crimes. 'I would like to reduce the numbers in all areas, but we're still trending about normal for Gresham.'

While Gresham saw increases in both violent and property crime, Eugene saw a 7-percent increase in violent crime but a 7.6-percent drop in property crime; Salem saw a 2.6 percent increase in violent crime and a 1.6-percent dip in property crime; while Portland experienced a 6-percent decrease in violent crime and a tiny increase - less than half a percent - in property crime.

In Portland, Gresham's neighbor to the west, robbery was down 19.6 percent and aggravated assault dropped by about half a percent, but murder increased 10 percent from 10 in the first half of 2010 to 11 in the first half of 2011. Forcible rape also increased 14.5 percent.

As for property crime, Portland saw a 0.4-percent increase. Burglary dropped 9.4 percent, but motor-vehicle theft increased by half a percent and larceny-theft jumped 24 percent. Arson also increased by 15 percent.