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Crime in Las Vegas, Henderson down in 2011, police say

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Justin M. Bowen

Metro Police Officers Rachel Calderon and Bryce Jones patrol Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas on foot Monday, Aug. 8, 2011, as part of an initiative called Crime Free Corridor, a plan to reduce in crime in the downtown area.

Updated Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012 | 3:54 p.m.

The economy isn’t all that’s slow in Southern Nevada. New data from police in Henderson and Las Vegas show a slowdown in crime in 2011.

Homicides in 2011 dropped by double-digit percentages from a year earlier in Las Vegas and Henderson, according to preliminary year-end statistics released by the cities’ police departments.

In Las Vegas, Metro Police reported 86 homicides in 2011 compared to 116 in 2010 — a 26 percent decrease and the largest drop in Metro’s jurisdiction among five violent crime subcategories, according to the department’s data.

The number of homicides in Las Vegas is at its lowest point since 1990, police said. Sheriff Douglas Gillespie credited hard work among police and the community’s help for the decline.

“You’re our eyes; you’re our ears,” he said. “You’re our willing participants in very difficult times that occur in your lives. And because you’re those willing participants, we are all — truly all — better for it.”

Henderson recorded four homicides in 2011 compared to eight in 2010, police said.

Overall, violent crime in Las Vegas decreased by about 17 percent, while Henderson’s spiked 6 percent — mostly because of more forcible rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults than in 2010.

Double-digit decreases in homicides, sexual assaults (down 12 percent) and robberies (down 20 percent) fueled Las Vegas’ drop in violent crime, according to police data. Assaults with guns also fell 8 percent, police said.

Sexual assaults, which had spiked in 2010 at 1,421, fell last year to 1,250 after the department enacted what Gillespie called “strategic approaches”: partnerships with the community, academia and other law enforcement agencies.

“Sexual assault was a challenge for us,” Gillespie said. “Some of those strategies have been effective.”

While sexual assaults in Las Vegas declined, forcible rapes in Henderson jumped from 35 in 2010 to 58 last year — a 66 percent increase, according to police data. Aggravated assaults and robberies also increased in Henderson, up 2 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

On a brighter note, property crimes continued a downward slide in both cities — by 8.65 percent in Las Vegas and 7 percent in Henderson, according to police data.

Henderson’s only property crimes category to increase was burglaries, which went up by less than 1 percent, police said.

In Las Vegas, the overall number of arrests in 2011 largely remained the same, 8,244 in 2011 compared to 8,208 a year earlier, a 0.44 percent increase. The 66 murder arrests made by Metro Police in 2011 were lower by 30 percent than the 94 murder arrests police made in 2011, a 30 percent drop. But those nearly mirrored the 26 percent drop in Las Vegas homicides.

Metro homicide Lt. Ray Steiber said the department has placed critical emphasis on the first 48 hours after a homicide, leading to a rate of roughly 80 percent for solving such crimes, which he said was higher than the national average.

“We believe within that time if we can generate enough leads, get a good handle on what exactly occurred and why it occurred, we have a great opportunity to solve that crime,” Steiber said. “We saw that last year with our numbers.”

Fewer deaths on the road also occurred in Las Vegas last year. Traffic fatalities dropped roughly 15 percent, from 83 in 2010 to 70 in 2011, according to Metro’s data.

Metro Police said numbers for November and December were included in the report based on projections and accumulated data. A software conversion has delayed the addition of those months’ actual statistics, police said.

North Las Vegas had not released its crime numbers as of Tuesday afternoon.

CORRECTION: The Henderson Police Department released updated crime report data Tuesday afternoon than appeared in the original story. | (February 7, 2012)

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