The number of violent crimes dipped in six of the 10 largest communities surrounding Pittsburgh last year, reflecting a downward trend nationally in homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults, according to statistics released yesterday by the FBI.
The bureau's Uniform Crime Report also shows that property crimes such as burglaries and vehicle thefts dropped in six of the area's 10 largest municipalities -- though not in the same towns.
"For the most part, Penn Hills is a safe community, and the numbers show that," Penn Hills police Chief Howard Burton said. "But when the occasional spike in violent crime occurs, it makes the news and can give us a bad rap that really isn't deserved."
Between 2008 and 2009, violent crime in Penn Hills decreased by 13.8 percent, with the number of property crimes going down by 10.3 percent.
Burton noted that Penn Hills' proximity to East End city neighborhoods that are considered "hot spots" for violent crime spill over into his community.
"Most of these crimes are drug dealers shooting drug dealers," Burton said.
Nationally, the FBI report shows that violent crime in the United States dropped for the third consecutive year.
There were 5.3 percent fewer reports of violent crimes and 4.6 percent fewer property crimes than in 2008, according to the federal government.
Last year was the seventh consecutive year in which property crimes have declined, defying predictions by some that such offenses might rise during a time of economic recession.
Nationwide, the rate of violent crimes for 2009 was 429.4 offenses per 100,000 people, a 6.1 percent decrease from 2008, according to the FBI. The property crime rate was 3,036.1 per 100,000 persons, a 5.5 percent decrease compared with 2008.
Each of the four violent crime categories decreased nationwide: homicide, down 7.3 percent; robbery, down 8 percent; aggravated assault, down 4.2 percent; and rape, down 2.6 percent.
Motor vehicle thefts fell 17 percent, larceny was down 4 percent, and burglaries were down 1.3 percent nationwide.
Moon police Chief Leo McCarthy said he checks his municipality's statistics year-round, and they have remained low for the past decade.
"We stay pretty steady here in Moon," McCarthy said.
Baldwin Borough police Chief Michael Scott said the numbers released by the FBI for his community may contain an error that skews the actual number of crimes that occurred last year. …