The rate of violent crimes in Prince William County fell by 20.7 percent in 2011, and the overall crime rate also declined, County Chief of Police Charlie Deane reported at a press conference this week.
"The rate of crime in all categories is down," he said.
In 15 years, the county's population has increased from nearly 265,000 to over 409,000, but the crime rate per 1000 residents has dropped from about 32 in 1997 to about 17.5 in 2011.
With three murders last year, murder was down by 66.6 percent, . The highest number of murders in the county in recent years was 16 in 2006.
"What we've always seen is the number of murders each year has fluctuated dramatically," Deane said.
Rape was down 13.2 percent, from 53 reported in 2010 to 46 reported in 2011. Furthermore, 10 of the rapes reported in 2011 were alleged to have happened before 2011. Only one of the 46 reported rapes was , a case that remains currently unsolved.
"We think that this person will continue until he is caught," Deane said about the rapist.
The 2011 closure rate for violent crime cases was 68.7 percent. The national closure rate average in 2010 was 47.2 percent.
The number of criminal arrests, both adult and juvenile, increased slightly from 2010 to 2011, with 13,973 arrests in 2010 and 14,286 arrests in 2011. Arrests of illegal aliens formed 5.3 percent of all criminal arrests in 2011.
"There could be a relationship with the number of arrests going up and the crime going down," Deane said. He clarified that many of the arrests were not for Part I offenses, a category that includes more serious crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, assault and larceny.
Deane believes that another important factor in the declining crime rates is the increased "cooperation and communication between the community and the police department." He specifically credits the neighborhood watch system in Prince William County.
"But this can't go down forever," Deane said, pointing to a graph showing the dropping violent crime rates over the past few years. "Our goal is not to fail."
Deane hopes the recent introduction of the online reporting system will enable more citizens to report suspected crimes quickly and with ease in 2012.
"Rather than wait for police to come, or spend time on the phone with police, they can go online at their leisure," he said.