Evanston police say the number of major crimes in Evanston — the type tracked nationally by FBI crime statistics — declined by 12.4 percent last year.

Evanston police say the number of major crimes in Evanston — the type tracked nationally by FBI crime statistics — declined by 12.4 percent last year.

The figures, released this week, show that despite a surge in homicides from 1 to 7 last year, the overall count of crimes against persons was down 16 percent, with a 20 percent decline in incidents of aggravated battery and assault leading the way.

Robberies declined 17 percent while the number of rapes was unchanged from 2009.

Property crimes declined 12 percent, with auto theft showing a 31 percent drop and burglaries down nearly 22 percent.

Thefts, by far the most common of the crimes in the index, were down 8 percent, but arsons increased by 17 percent — from 12 to 14.

Police Cmdr. Tom Guenther says the department is making increased use of timely crime report data to better assign officers to areas where criminals have been most active.

He also credited increased connections with community groups as a source of information for police on what problems are affecting neighborhoods and how best to respond to them.

The total number of index crimes in Evanston last year was 2,333. That’s down by more than half from 5,197 incidents a decade ago.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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