Violent crimes in Fort Worth fell in 2009 while property crimes increased

FORT WORTH -- Violent crimes in Fort Worth fell in 2009 while property crimes increased, according to Department of Public Safety-certified crime statistics released Tuesday.

The statistics differed from those presented just a week earlier to the Fort Worth City Council by Chief Jeff Halstead -- from as little as a few tenths of a percent in the theft category to a difference of six in the number of reported homicides.

Lt. Paul Henderson, chief of staff, said that each month, the Police Department sends the DPS its crime statistics for certification.

Once certified, the statistics are sent back to the Police Department, which shares the information with the City Council. The end-of-year statistics shared with the council last week were based on a culmination of the monthly statistics.

"Once we provide those numbers to council, we do not change them even though DPS constantly updates their numbers throughout the year," Henderson said. "So while our numbers stay static, DPS numbers are fluid."

He said statistics released to the public Tuesday reflected the end-of-the-year recalculation done by DPS "based on classifications that may have changed due to cases being unfounded, aggravated assaults turned into murder because the victim died later, etc."

According to those statistics, robbery saw the biggest decline among violent crimes in 2009, dropping 15 percent from 2008. Murders and aggravated assaults also dropped while rapes rose 5.8 percent, the statistics show.

In property crimes, auto thefts in 2009 plunged 21.9 percent compared with 2008. Thefts also fell slightly, by 0.49 percent, while burglaries jumped 13.3 percent.

Overall, the seven crimes -- referred to as Part 1 crimes -- rose 0.46 percent, although Fort Worth police officials point out that the city's population grew from 702,250 in 2008 to 720,850 in 2009.

Some discrepancies

The biggest discrepancy between statistics released Tuesday and those given to the City Council last week was in the number of homicides.

Halstead had told council members last week that the city had recorded 40 slayings in 2009, down 14.9 percent from the 47 reported in 2008.

DPS numbers released by the department Tuesday stated that the city had 46 homicides in 2009, down from 50 in 2008.

Henderson attributed the discrepancy in part to an employee's math error and a reclassification of some offenses under DPS guidelines.

"The accurate number is 46, and the department recognizes 46 victims as well," Henderson said.

Other differences ranged from only tenths of a percentage point to less than a 3 percent difference.

Henderson said the department does not continually update previous monthly statistics with DPS changes because "it's ever-changing, and we'd be expending large amounts of time and resources on continuing to match our numbers with DPS numbers when in the end, the discrepancies typically are minor."

He said the department is, however, exploring ways to make the two sets of statistics less confusing.

DEANNA BOYD, 817-390-7655

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