Community involvement contributed greatly to decreases in Columbia County's crime rates for the eighth year in a row, officials said.
Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle said programs such as neighborhood watches, concentrated patrols and vacation house watching helped contribute to a 1.3 percent overall reduction in crime in 2003.
Since 1996, Columbia County's population has increased by 17.5 percent to an estimated 98,000. During that same time, crime rates have fallen 26 percent.
Part one crimes, which include offenses such as arson or murder, also dropped from a total of 1,965 reported cases in 2002 to 1,796 in 2003 - an 8.9 percent decrease. But there were two homicides in 2003 and none the previous year.
The Aug. 5, 2003, slaying of Army Capt. Kenneth Anderson, 40, was part of a murder/suicide incident that police say was orchestrated by Mr. Anderson's 34-year-old wife, Linda Bualat Anderson, at the couple's Wedgewood Park apartment on Old Evans Road.
Also, 74-year-old Meredith Ruth Guy, of the 300 block of Twin Lakes Drive in Martinez, was killed in February. No one has been arrested in her shooting death.
After a 52.3 percent increase in burglaries in 2002 from the year before, county authorities say the number dropped to 291 in 2003 - a decrease of 25.6 percent.
The sheriff said he believes the drop is related to residents' involvement and the addition of a crime analyst to his police force.
Using computers, the sheriff's office's crime analyst enters all reported crime incidents and tracks times and locations of incidents such as burglaries. A report on current crime activity is then given to officers every day before starting patrols.
"They use that to key in on certain locations at certain times, and it's been very successful in catching numerous groups of thieves and burglars," Sheriff Whittle said.
Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 109, or firstname.lastname@example.org.