Overall crime in Maine fell for the eighth straight year in 2019, but reports of some violent crimes – including rapes – increased, the state said Monday.

Overall, 18,468 crimes were reported by local police in 2019, down about 6 percent from 2018. That means there were about 14 crimes reported for every 1,000 residents. Nationally, that figure is closer to 25 per 1,000 residents, making Maine among the safest states.

Reported rapes climbed 15 percent in 2019, continuing an upward trend that began in 2014. That rise is attributed, at least in part, to increased reporting by victims, although advocates caution that many rapes still go unreported.

The 2019 numbers are the most recent available, and no comprehensive numbers are available for criminal activity in 2020.

From 2012 to 2019, crime in the state dropped 56 percent, according to the data, which is compiled annually and submitted to the FBI as part of a national program to examine crime trends. The report does not reflect every type of offense, but tracks major categories of violent crime and property crime, along with data about the alleged offenders and victims.

Maine Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck lauded the work of police, and reminded the public that each number represents a victim.

“An eighth-consecutive year of overall crime reductions speaks volumes to the hard work of our professional law enforcement officers, our partners, and of course the communities we serve,” said Sauschuck. “We want the victims we serve to know that we never forget, and we are committed to working harder every day to bring you justice in a fair and equitable manner.”

The biggest drop was in property crime, which is down 7.6 percent over 2018, with 1,355 fewer cases. Motor vehicle thefts dropped nearly 27 percent, to 724 cases during the year. Burglary dropped 13.6 percent, to 2,340 incidents.

The 3.1 percent increase in violent crime was driven in part by a jump in reported incidents of rape, which increased 15 percent, for a total of 514 cases.

Rape reports have been increasing in recent years and experienced a similar 17 percent jump in 2017, going from 383 to 448. At the time, that was the highest number in Maine since at least 1994, the earliest year for which data is available. The number stayed about the same in 2018, with 447 reported rapes.

The 2019 total represents a new high. But that number must be viewed in the larger context as a count of only reported incidents, said Elizabeth Saxl-Ward, executive director of the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

“Sexual assault continues to be one of the most underreported crimes,” Saxl-Ward said in a prepared statement included in the state’s statistics.

She said a study by the Muskie School of Public Service estimated about 14,000 Mainers are sexually assaulted annually – far more than the number of reported cases.

“It may in fact be good news to see reports of sexual assault to law enforcement go up,” she said, “as an indication that more victims were willing to make reports to the police last year.”

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