While property crimes in Utah remain above the national average, the Beehive State continues to be one of the safest places in the nation to live, according to a report from a local independent research group.

The Utah Foundation recently published its analysis of crime in the state from 1960 to 2006. In January, the group's 2008 Utah Priorities Survey showed that "Crime and Security" ranked as the sixth biggest concern for Utah residents behind issues like gas prices and energy, education, government spending, health care and immigration.

"Utah continues to be one of the safest places in the United States in terms of violent crime," the report stated, noting there was an average of 224.5 violent crimes per 100,000 people in Utah.

Utah ranks 46th overall in the nation for violent crime but ranks significantly higher for rape, with the 21st highest rate in the nation, according to the study.

Property crimes were also above the national average, due largely to the number of larcenies in the state, the report stated. Larceny is defined by the FBI as the unlawful taking of property without the use of force, violence or fraud and does not include auto thefts.

"Some people call us the white collar capital of the nation," said Utah Foundation president Stephen Kroes.

But based on what his group found, Kroes said Utah is "definitely not a leader (in white collar crime)." The group's study was based on arrest rates for white collar crime and not the number of crimes reported.

Overall, the crime rate in Utah has dropped more than 30 percent since its peak in 1995, placing it 27th in the nation, according to the report.

"While researchers have been unable to prove exactly why this decline occurred, Utah's per capita expenditures for police protection do appear to have some correlation with the decrease of Utah's crime rate," the report stated.

Another possible factor in the decrease in crime could be an increase in the prison population, the report stated.

The foundation's statistics mostly consisted of previous reports issued by the FBI and the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification. The group acknowledges that a spike in the early to mid-1990s well above the national average may have been due to a change in the way crimes were reported.

The goal of the project is to help voters and even candidates be as informed on the issues as possible, which in turn the group hopes will promote better political dialogue on the issues, Kroes said. The Utah Foundation published a similar report in 2004 and found crime ranked about the same for residents on the list of top concerns.

The study showed that public policy decisions to put more officers on the street and lock up more prisoners seemed to have a positive effect on crime reduction, Kroes said.

"There are programs that work," he said. "Don't scrap what's been done."

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