There were fewer crimes reported in Spokane last year than in 1996, marking the third straight year that number has decreased in the city. The numbers reflect a trend that shows crime falling nationwide.
But several categories of violent crime showed increases, according to figures released Tuesday by the Spokane Police Department. Rapes increased 19.1 percent, with more than 100 reported in 1997.
Spokane police and law enforcement agencies nationwide track seven major crime categories and submit the numbers annually to the FBI.
The categories are murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft and vehicle theft.
Complete statistics from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department were not available Tuesday.
In the city of Spokane, overall crime reports in 1997 dropped by 1 percent over 1996.
Homicides showed the most significant decline, falling from 15 in 1996 to 12 last year - a 20 percent decrease.
Thefts also were down in the city, dropping from more than 11,000 reports in 1996 to about 10,400 last year.
Police spokesman Dick Cottam said many factors contributed to the decline, including better training of police officers.
“I think it’s a combination of things, including more involvement from the public, more emphasis on focusing on repeat offenders and legislation that makes it easier to convict people,” Cottam said.
The five other categories saw increases, including robberies, up nearly 17 percent, and burglaries, up more than 9 percent.
Illegal drug use continues to be the main force driving such crimes, Cottam said. People steal money or property to trade for drugs.
Last year’s increases canceled declines in 1996, when police said a November ice storm blunted crime in the latter part of the year.
Rapes, murders and robberies fell sharply between 1995 and 1996.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Crime in ‘97