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Dallas keeps big-city crime title

The number of murders in Dallas last year fell to a 39-year low, but the reduction is unlikely to change the city's status as the most crime-ridden in the United States, in part because of how police classify some crimes.

Rankings released in September based on 2005 data showed that Dallas has the highest crime rate among large cities, with about one crime reported for every 12 people. It's the eighth straight year Dallas has topped the high-crime list among cities with at least 1 million residents.

The next round of rankings, based on 2006 data, likely won't come out for about six months - once all cities have reported their final statistics, said Dallas police Lt. Vernon Hale.

Although crime is down in Dallas, police say they would have to report certain crimes differently to drop in the rankings.

For example, unlike Dallas police, officers in New York City and Los Angeles require people to sign sworn affidavits when reporting stolen cars to cut down on insurance fraud. Dallas police also continue to classify property that might have been lost as stolen property, even when they are uncertain of its fate, thereby inflating crime statistics.

Despite Dallas' reputation, there was significant progress made in 2006, police Chief David Kunkle said. There were 187 murders in Dallas in 2006, the fewest since 1967, when there were 133. That represents a 5.6 percent decrease from 2005, when there were 198 murders, according to Dallas Police Department statistics released this week.

This is the second straight year in which murders have decreased. In 2004, there were 248 murders. The worst year for murders in the past 40 was 1991, when there were 500.

The reduction in homicides for two straight years makes Dallas unique among major cities, Kunkle said.

"We're very pleased," he said. "The growing trend nationally is an increase in homicides. Most of the cities you see with reductions this year didn't have reductions last year." Total crime, violent crime and nonviolent crime also dropped, police said. Overall crime fell nearly 3 percent.

The modest gains are a result of police efforts to identify crime hot spots and improve the department's relationship with Dallas residents, Kunkle said.

Still, certain types of crime increased in 2006. The number of reported rapes increased from 2005 by nearly 22 percent to 685. But the 562 reported rapes in 2005 was the lowest since 1975, making an increase this year appear dramatically larger, said Sgt. Patrick Welsh of the police sex assaults unit. Police statistics also show a 6.5 percent increase in business robbery and a 3.3 percent increase in business burglary.

The city is safer than in past years, Kunkle said, even though the department did not meet his goals of reducing murders and overall crime by 10 percent.




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