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Medford crime declines 6%

MEDFORD — Overall crime in Medford dropped nearly 6 percent last year, with steep decreases in burglaries and vehicle theft, reports show.

Serious crimes, classified as Part 1 crimes, dropped 8.3 percent in 2008 from the previous year.

The largest declines came in burglaries, which dropped from 419 in 2007 to 309 last year, and overall thefts, which saw a 7.1-percent drop.

"We are very concerned with what we call 'people crimes' and we pay close attention to those over the year," Medford police Deputy Chief Tim George said.

Violent crime ticked up slightly in 2008, as there were more reported rapes, assaults and homicides.

Rapes rose from 26 in 2007 to 33 last year.

Assault saw a slight increase of .6 percent, with 1,103 reports in 2008, up from 1,096 in 2007.

There were two reported homicides in Medford last year, up from one the year before. The lone manslaughter case came in September when a man allegedly shot his buddy in the chest with a compound bow in a Cottage Street home.

Medford detectives do not believe the act was intentional.

The second homicide case resulted from a traffic accident, reports show.

George said it is too early to know whether the economic downturn will affect crime in 2009. Historically, recessions do not result in dramatic increases in violent crime, George said.

"As people lose more and more money we could see things such as theft, forgery and counterfeiting increase," he said.

Counterfeiting climbed 33 percent in 2008, growing from 179 calls the previous year to 239 reports in 2008.

"That's one area where the economy could already be having an effect," George said. "Many of those cases come from elder abuse and crimes such as that."

Overall traffic crimes increased, with the sharpest spike coming in hit-and-run reports, which rose 239 percent from 129 in 2007 to 438 last year.

Arrests for driving under the influence of intoxicants, however, fell by 50, though Medford still ranks high in the state in DUII arrests for a department its size.

"We have noticed less traffic on the roads with high fuel prices and the bad economy," George said. "We think that, more than anything, is what led to the drop in DUII arrests. It's not as if people are suddenly not drinking and driving."

The department's calls for service rose in 2008, from 83,834 in 2007 to 85,222 in 2008.

The most troubling statistic, George said, was the increase in weapons violations and suicide calls. Suicide calls rose 59 percent in 2008. Weapons violations rose nearly 20 percent.

"The attempted suicide calls are problematic because we often are dealing with individuals who are mentally unstable and sometimes are armed and under the influence of something," George said. "That is something we will continue to monitor in the coming year."

Officers are finding that more stops are leading to weapon seizures. George said discoveries of illegal guns or knives are becoming more commonplace.

The statistic the department is most proud of is its 83 percent clearance rate for Part 1 and 2 crimes, George said.

"This shows we are trying to follow up and bring crimes to a conclusion," George said.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.