DENVER (AP) - Reports of serious crimes increased an average of 12 percent in the metro area last year, the first significant jump in nearly a decade, according to preliminary statistics.
The numbers are provided annually to the FBI, which will verify and use them in determining the crime index for cities nationwide.
The Rocky Mountain News requested the early numbers from 13 law-enforcement jurisdictions in eight categories of crime: homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, auto theft and arson.
Figures were provided by sheriff's offices in Boulder, Jefferson, Arapahoe, Adams and Douglas counties and police departments in Arvada, Aurora, Boulder, Castle Rock, Denver, Lakewood, Littleton and Thornton.
All but three of the agencies reported increases in serious crime ranging from 7 to 17 percent.
The increase in crime, after declines for eight years and then a leveling off last year, seemed to match forecaster's predictions for a changing population, said Joseph Sandoval, chairman of the department of criminal justice and criminology at Metropolitan State College in Denver.
"They expected there to be an increase in the number of folks hitting that age when most people commit crimes," Sandoval said. He said most crimes are committed by offenders in their late teens to late 20s.
Property crimes accounted for the bulk of the increase in reports, with robberies jumping 15 percent last year, theft increasing 11 percent and burglary climbing 7 percent.
The rate of property crimes and violent crimes had dropped for nine years in Denver city limits before increasing 14 percent last year.
In Lakewood, traffic deaths dropped about 35 percent to 11 last year after a record 17 in 2000. But serious crime rose 13 percent over 2000, with double-digit increases in aggravated assault and thefts.
Authorities said a yearlong campaign to reduce traffic accidents and fatalities paid off, but they're not sure why serious crime was up.
"There are many variables involved such as economic conditions, social aspects, population growth and other factors," Police Chief Ron Burns said.
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Littleton was one of the few cities that experienced a drop in serious crimes. Auto thefts decreased 30 percent, but police spokesman Dan Stocking said that was due to an abnormally high number of auto thefts the previous year.