PROVO — Despite a rise in property crimes, city officials said they're glad to see overall crime in Provo is still lower than in Utah cities of similar size.

According to a preliminary report released Monday by the FBI, the number of property crimes in Provowent from 2,918 in 2006 to 3,239 last year — a surge of approximately 11 percent — while violent crimes in the city decreased about 8 percent. Motor vehicle thefts and larceny thefts contributed most to the spike in property crimes, increasing about 37 percent and 15 percent, respectively, from the previous year.

City Councilman George Stewart said the rise in property crimes, such as burglary, larceny theft, motor vehicle theft and arson, can be partly attributed to economic problems.

"As the economy is in a downturn mode, crime goes up," he said. "Of course, we're not immune from that downward spiraling."

Provo chief administrative officer Wayne Parker said the mayor's office doesn't attribute the increase to any specific cause.

"These things have periodic fluctuations," he said. "And there's not really a key reason."

The city's upswing in property crime bucks the national trend, violent crime and property crime decreased nationwide by 1.4 percent and 2.1 percent, but city officials said Provo continues to have significantly lower crime rates than other large Utah cities such as West Valley City and Salt Lake City.

"We're one of the safest cities in the nation," Stewart said.

Stewart also said Provo police and residents deserve the kudos for making the city a safe community to live in.

"I don't think we as a council or the mayor can take credit for that," he said.

Parker said he's typically cautious about drawing too many conclusions from crime statistics. The FBI report also states any ranking drawn from the study "provides no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state or region." But Parker did say the report reveals that, for a city its size, Provo is a low-crime community.

An analysis of FBI crime reports from 2007 to 2003 shows Provo's per capita crime rates are consistently lower than those of Salt Lake City and West Valley City. For the past five years, the city's violent crime rate has hovered around 1.46 per 1,000 residents while those for Salt Lake City and West Valley City averaged around 7.5 and 4.3, respectively. For property crimes, Provo had a rate of 27.6 per 1,000 residents in 2007 while Salt Lake's rate was 81.9 and West Valley's, 54.

Parker noted it doesn't take much to change the numbers. The Trolley Square shooting that left five people dead dramatically increased Salt Lake City's murder rate. Such a tragedy can happen anywhere, and Parker said he sympathizes with the city.

Besides, Provo is far from crime free, City Councilwoman Midge Johnson said. She said she's seen an upswing in larceny and car thefts in her neighborhood. In fact, a while ago her son moved to Provo from Las Vegas, and someone broke into their U-Haul during the night while it was parked out on the street.

"When it doesn't affect you, you think, 'Oh, yeah, we're safe,"' she said. "I don't want to sit back and feel all is well."


E-mail: jdana@desnews.com