Crime fell 5.6 percent in Toledo last year, marking the third consecutive year offenses reported by police have dropped.
Crime has dropped by nearly 2,000 offenses since 2002. Offenses last year fell in six of nine categories, according to statistics released yesterday.
Mayor Jack Ford and Police Chief Mike Navarre attributed the drop to officer diligence, more Block Watch groups, and improved technology to help identify suspects, such as DNA and an automated fingerprint identification system. Police also arrested suspects quickly, averting potential crime waves, authorities said.
"This is a significant decrease. The first quarter of 2004 was pretty rough. There were a lot of crimes. I thank the officers who did more with less," Chief Navarre said.
Overall crime in the city decreased from 26,777 offenses in 2003 to 25,283 last year.
Violent crimes - murder, manslaughter, robbery, aggravated assault, and rape - rose 3 percent, from 3,184 in 2003 to 3,276 last year.
Police counted only one more murder last year than in 2003, when they investigated 21. Fewer people reported being raped and robbed last year, but more assaults were logged.
Authorities said the manslaughter total more than quadrupled last year to nine from two in 2003, mostly because police included the deaths of seven children in an October apartment fire in South Toledo.
Melinda Ragland, mother of six of the children and aunt of the seventh, was indicted on seven counts each of involuntary manslaughter and endangering children in the deaths. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In December, Chief Navarre said he wasn't planning to count the fire deaths in the city's crime totals. However, he said he would talk with the FBI, which compiles the annual Uniform Crime Report to be released later this year, to determine whether they should be included.
He said the FBI indicated the deaths should be counted because Ms. Ragland was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Toledo's crime totals could not be compared to statistics in other Ohio cities because not all of the cities have compiled their 2004 totals.
Mayor Ford said the city's Block Watch groups have grown from 59 when he began his term to 144.
Block Watch members provide information to police and, the mayor said, he sees citizens "as our partners."
Mayor Ford said the bike patrol unit has been of the police's most successful units. Officers have deterred crime in some of the city's "hot spots" or areas where drug and gang activity is prevalent.
Chief Navarre said the unit has taken hundreds of guns and large quantities of drugs off the streets.
The chief said he hopes a new gang suppression unit, which will work like the bike unit, only in cars, will continue to help fight crime.
Authorities said seven city-funded surveillance cameras at carryouts also have helped deter crime and twice were used to identify suspects.
Mayor Ford said if there is "breathing room" in the city's budget, he will ask City Council for an additional $50,000 for six or seven more cameras.
Even though crime was down last year, Mayor Ford said, "we have a lot of work to do."
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