Crime rate in area steady as nation's rate falls

FBI data released Monday shows that crime decreased for the third consecutive year across the nation, while crime numbers in Richmond County appear relatively flat.

A preliminary draft of the FBI's Uniform Crime report said law enforcement agencies across the U.S. reported a decrease in violent crime of 5.5 percent and a drop in property crimes of 4.9 percent in 2009 compared with 2008. Data from Richmond County is not included in the preliminary report, because it includes numbers from cities only. Augusta-Richmond County is considered a county for statistical purposes.

But according to numbers from the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, crimes stayed relatively flat from year to year.

Violent crimes -- defined by the FBI as murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- showed only slight increases and decreases.

There were 17 fewer rapes in 2009 but 76 more aggravated assaults, sheriff's data shows. All robberies were up by only 15 reported cases year-over-year. Murders were down by one case.

Property crimes included 263 more burglaries, 93 more thefts by taking and 119 fewer car thefts.

Sheriff's Capt. Scott Peebles said he thinks the economy has played a part in any local increase in property crimes.

"It's pretty common and it's what we brace for," Peebles said. "It's what we had to deal with through 2009."

He said numbers show a slight increase in armed robberies, aggravated assaults and murders in 2010 compared with 2009. Commercial armed robberies, burglaries and theft-by-takings are down so far this year, he said.

According to the FBI, violent crime fell in the South by 6.6 percent. It also dropped in the West by 5.6 percent, declined by 4.6 percent in the Midwest and 3.5 percent in the Northeast.

The national violent crime rate grew in 2005 and 2006 after years of decline. But it began falling again in 2007 and, according to the preliminary data, has continued to drop. The FBI collects data from about 13,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide to compile its annual crime report. The final version will be released in the fall.

By the numbers
 20082009
Murders2827
Rapes120103 
Aggravated assaults312388
Armed, other robberies777792
Burglaries2,9803,243
Thefts-by-taking9,7309,823
Automobile thefts1,6931,574

Source: Richmond County Sheriff's Office