Beaufort News

Violent crime fell in most of Beaufort County in 2010

Property and violent crime rose slightly in the city of Beaufort in 2010 but followed a national downward trend in most other places, newly released FBI statistics indicate.

Violent crime in areas patrolled by the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office -- unincorporated areas and the Town of Hilton Head Island -- remained fairly steady, with 713 incidents in 2010 and 711 in 2009. The violent crime category in the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Reporting program shows only the most heinous offenses, such as murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

In the city of Beaufort, violent crime rose to 135 incidents in 2010 from 124 in 2009, according to statistics released Monday. Assaults rose from 85 to 99, the data shows, accounting for the overall increase.

Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy said most of the assaults are bar-room brawls or fights between individuals who know each other.

"I can't attribute the increase to any particular incident. They're usually isolated fights between individuals," Clancy said.

The number of robberies in Beaufort increased only slightly, from 28 in 2009 to 33 in 2010;forcible rapes fell from 10 to three. The statistics include sexual assaults in the rape category.

Beaufort's property crimes -- break-ins, vehicle break-ins, thefts and vehicle thefts -- jumped from 695 to 804.

"The majority of break-ins and vehicle break-ins occur when vehicles are left unlocked and items like GPS units and iPods are left in plain view," Clancy said. "We've been focusing on education that tells people that criminals are usually looking for the easiest target. We could get that number way down if people would work on securing their vehicles."

In comparison, data for Bluffton shows a decrease in overall property crimes but an increase in commercial and residential break-ins, from 60 in 2009 to 72 in 2010. Violent-crime incidents there fell from 46 to 31.

"Our numbers are so low, statistically it's difficult to measure," Bluffton Police Chief David McAllister said. "But we have focused on targeting commercial areas with patrols, and we've arrested some individuals who have been suspects in multiple crimes."

"Every report gets a look by a detective, no matter what the incident, so we can see if there's any way we can prevent crime," McAllister added.

The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program showed a 6-percent decrease nationwide in violent crime compared to 2009.

Data for unincorporated Beaufort County and Hilton Head shows four incidents of murder and non-negligent manslaughter in 2010 compared to five in 2009.

The downward trend held in most of the county and Hilton Head, except in aggravated assaults, which rose by 55 incidents to 596. Property crimes dropped to 3,914 from 4,020.

Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said a large portion of the assaults were incidents of domestic violence.

"At the end of the day, Beaufort County is safer because law enforcement has done a better job and citizens are reporting more and doing a better job of protecting themselves and their property," he said.

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