The number of major crimes committed in Baton Rouge last year dropped 9 percent from 2009, according to statistics the Police Department released Wednesday.
Crimes against people — murder, rape, robbery and assault — fell more than 10 percent, the statistics show.
Crimes against property —burglary, larceny, arson and motor vehicle theft — were down nearly 9 percent.
The number of homicides in Baton Rouge fell from 75 in 2009 — the highest on record — to 69 in 2010.
“Even a 1 percent decrease would be welcomed, but 9 percent, we’ll take that,” police spokesman Sgt. Donald Stone said. “And we’re going to keep making strides toward getting that number higher.”
Although Stone was unsure exactly what attributed to the decrease, he said the department implemented new programs and technologies to deter criminals, including the police helicopter acquired last year.
The department’s bait car and license plate reader helped lower the number of auto thefts in the city by 26 percent, Stone said.
The number of robberies and arsons also declined significantly, he added. Each decreased 16 percent to 948 and 173, respectively.
The drop in overall crime mirrors what happened across the nation last year, according to statistics recently released by the FBI.
Nationally, murder fell 4 percent in 2010, the statistics show.
Rape and aggravated assault also fell 4 percent, and robbery dropped 10 percent. Property crimes decreased 3 percent.
For the most part, the amount of crime in Baton Rouge last year also resembled what happened in five other southern cities — Mobile, Ala.; Jackson, Miss.; Little Rock, Ark.; Montgomery, Ala.; and Shreveport, according to a Police Department survey.
The survey compared law enforcement agencies in the five cities to Baton Rouge’s Police Department, the survey said.
“These police departments are similar in size and scope of duties in relation to the city of Baton Rouge,” the survey said. “While many variances are present due to population, economy and statistical data, these departments best represent the closest comparison.”
The number of violent crimes committed in those cities in 2010 ranged from 2,936 in Little Rock to 797 in Montgomery. Baton Rouge saw 2,535 violent crimes last year.
The number of property crimes in the five cities ranged from 14,763 in Little Rock to 9,459 in Shreveport. The number of property crimes committed in Baton Rouge last year was 12,638.
The only crime Baton Rouge saw significantly more of than the other five cities in 2010 was murder.
Sixty-nine people were killed in Baton Rouge last year, which is more than double the amount slain in Mobile, Montgomery, Little Rock and Shreveport, according to the survey.
Baton Rouge’s murder count was 28 more than the 41 people killed in Jackson.
Edward Shihadeh, LSU sociology professor and criminologist, said Baton Rouge’s close proximity to New Orleans contributes to its homicide numbers being higher than in cities of comparable sizes.
“Katrina blew a lot of things our way,” he said. “It did send us plenty of good people looking for relief and a way to get home, but it also transmitted a criminal culture.”
That criminal culture, Shihadeh said, is still thriving in Baton Rouge, despite what last year’s crime statistics show.
The decrease, he said, was a “minor blip on an otherwise upward trend.”
“I have the chart open right in front of me, and there is clearly a steady climb since 2004,” Shihadeh added. “In 2010, it was just catching its breath.”
Baton Rouge’s new police chief — Dewayne White — is faced with continuing the downward trend in crime statistics.
White, 51, was named the city’s top law enforcement officer Friday and was sworn in on Tuesday.
The former Baton Rouge police officer and longtime State Police administrator has not detailed his plans for the city or the Police Department.
He has said that information will be shared with the public after he’s had a chance to talk to the men and women on the Baton Rouge police force.