Continuing a 25-year trend, Bellevue's overall crime rate decreased in 2006.
"It's remarkable that our overall crime rate has continued to decrease at the same time we've gone from a suburban to an urban center with the fifth largest population in the state," Police Chief Jim Montgomery said.
Preliminary numbers released this week by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) indicate that overall crime in Bellevue in 2006 decreased 8.6 percent compared to 2005, as a result of a sharp decrease in property crimes.
However, the number of robberies in 2006 compared to 2005 increased from 49 to 71, due largely to a small group of suspects who were later arrested.
Rapes increased from 29 to 42, while murders increased from two to three.
"Obviously we're not happy any time we experience any increase in any type of crime," Montgomery said. "But the one-year increase in certain types of violent crime does not represent a trend. Bellevue continues to be one of the safest communities in the Puget Sound region as well as the entire nation."
State's safest major city
The WASPC statistics released Tuesday indicate that of the nine largest cities in the state, Bellevue in 2006 had the lowest crime rate -- 38.1 crimes per 1,000 residents. The next lowest crime rate was in Vancouver, 45.8 major crimes per 1,000 residents.
The rate in Seattle was 75.9 crimes per 1,000 residents.
Montgomery said the WASPC statistics provide law enforcement agencies with a snapshot of crime trends, which they can use when determining where to allocate resources.
Keeping numbers in perspective
However, he cautioned that one year's worth of statistics can be misleading, and police must be careful to put the numbers in perspective.
"In a community the size of ours, even a crime spree by several individuals can skew the numbers tremendously, and that is exactly what happened in Bellevue with regard to robberies," he said.
The chief noted that despite the increase in 2006 in certain types of violent crimes, he was gratified to see the overall crime rate continue to fall. The support the Police Department has received over the years from city leaders and neighborhood and business groups has played a major role in making Bellevue a safe place to live and work, he said.
The WASPC numbers indicate that in 2006, the city experienced 184 violent crimes compared to 172 in 2005. Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
At the same time, property crimes in 2006 totaled 4,278 compared to 4,711 the previous year, according to WASPC. Property crimes include arson, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.
Car thefts down
An aggressive campaign against car thieves was a major reason for the drop in property crimes. In 2006, 476 cars were stolen in the city, a 16 percent decrease compared to 2005.
Montgomery said police officers in 2006 used a variety of means to enlist residents' help in protecting their cars from being stolen. Car thefts had been increasing every year since 2002.
"Our officers teamed up with residents to implement a number of successful, community-based actions," Montgomery said. "The result has been that Bellevue is now becoming known as a place not to steal cars."
Additional information is available at the WASPC website.
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