Maine’s overall crime rate, including homicides, dropped in 2009 but abuse of prescription medications went up, officials said.

The crime rate went down nearly 2 percent, Maine Public Safety Commissioner Anne H. Jordan said Wednesday in a prepared statement.

Some categories of crime increased: robbery, burglary and arson.

Increases in robbery and burglary were linked to increasing demand for money to buy illicit drugs, Jordan said.

“In addition to cocaine and heroin, Maine has seen significant increases in the abuse of prescription medication and that demand leads to more burglaries and robberies,” she said.

Declines in larceny-theft and assaults, including domestic violence, more than outweighed the higher statistics.

Many categories stayed even, such as sexual assaults, which rose by one case to 374 since 2008.

“Much progress has been made to reduce violence against women, but more work remains,” Jordan said. She encouraged victims of sexual assault and domestic violence to contact police and support groups.

Aggravated assaults dropped by 8.7 percent from 2008 numbers; simple assaults were down nearly 6 percent. Aggravated assault involves serious bodily injury, and often a weapon is used.

Domestic violence assaults decreased by 0.5 percent (5,287 in 2009; down from 5,311 in 2008.)

Robberies increased 20 percent (398 cases in 2009, up from 332 cases in 2008), reversing a two-year decrease. Robbery had gone down in 2008 by 5 percent and had dropped in 2007 by 9 percent.

Arson rose about 30 percent (243 cases in 2009; up from 188 cases in 2008.) The value of the property damage caused by arson fires tripled, from $3.1 million in 2008 to $9.48 million in 2009.

There were 26 homicides in 2009 compared to 31 the year before, Jordan said.

The crime rate in rural areas went down about 7 percent; in urban areas, it was down about 0.5 percent.

The total number of people arrested, summoned or cited by law enforcement, including adults and juveniles, decreased in 2009 for the second year in a row.

The value of property stolen in 2009 was $24.67 million, compared to $27.9 million in 2008. Police recovered $5.9 million worth of stolen property during 2009 for a recovery rate of 24 percent.


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