Violent crime has declined across Lee County for the first half of 2011, but the Bonita Springs and Estero areas have seen an uptick in total crime.
The number of countywide violent crimes — murders, forcible sex offenses, robberies and aggravated assaults — dropped from 704 in the first six months of 2010 to 602 in 2011, a 14.5 percent drop, according to midyear Uniform Crime Report data released Friday by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
“That’s excellent news since it shows the continuing downward trend in violent crimes since 2008,” Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott said in a prepared statement.
Sheriff’s Office officials weren’t available for additional comment Friday.
All four major crime figures dropped when compared to the first half of 2010 — murders were down from seven to five, forcible sex offenses were down from 101 to 85, robberies were down from 190 to 169 and aggravated assaults were down from 406 to 343.
While violent crime in Delta District, which includes Bonita Springs and Estero, fell from 129 to 101, other offense figures jumped. Motor vehicle thefts rose from 38 to 52, burglaries rose from 176 to 223 and larcenies rose from 532 to 619.
“Some of the numbers went up, some went down, but overall it paints a picture of a safer place,” Bonita Springs Mayor Ben Nelson said.
Total crime reported to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office has dropped each of the past four years, falling 43 percent between 2007 and 2010. The agency has investigated at least 15 murders each year since 2005, making this year’s count of five particularly low midway through the year.
Among the other highlights from the first half of 2010:
■ The number of DUI arrests fell from 599 to 435, a 27.3 percent drop.
■ Thieves are aiming higher this year, with thefts of more than $200 rising 15.6 percent and thefts between $50 and $200 down 7.5 percent.
■ Of the agency’s six districts, total crime dropped the most — 10.7 percent — in Bravo District, which covers much of Lehigh Acres.
How law enforcement officials interpret Uniform Crime Report data often is a point of contention. Some argue it offers the most complete picture of crime, but others point to the fact that it doesn’t account for unreported crimes.
Nelson said the Lee County Sheriff’s Office biannual report provides a useful snapshot, though it doesn’t tell the whole story.
“It’s important to get an idea of any trends you might see there,” Nelson said. “But I think when you look at the trends, you maybe have to look at the larger picture. Probably the larger story is response times to something going wrong or deterring crime to begin with.”
You can compare Lee County with others across the state on the FDLE website at www.fdle.state.fl.us.