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Nassau, Suffolk see drop in major crimes for 2009

With 2009 almost over, statistics for both county police agencies on Long Island show fewer reports of major crime.

In Suffolk County, major crime was down 7.83 percent comparing 2009 with 2008. In Nassau County, it was down 1.6 percent over roughly the same annual period.

At the same time, major violent crime in Suffolk - murder and manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault - rose 4.13 percent. While murder, manslaughter and rape are down, the numbers were skewed by a steep increase in robberies and aggravated assaults. Major violent crime in Nassau dropped about 0.2 percent.

County Executive Steve Levy pointed out that major crime has fallen by about 20 percent since he took office in January 2004.

In Nassau, major crime went down about 34 percent over roughly the same period, according to a report issued by outgoing County Executive Thomas Suozzi.

"We're looking pretty good over the course of the year," Levy said in an interview.

Of the drop in crime since 2004, Levy said: ". . . We think it's in a large part because of the strategy of getting more officers out from behind the desks and into the neighborhood."

Levy issued a news release Tuesday touting the data, the same week New York City released data showing that crime was down - and that the city was poised to have the fewest murders in recorded history.

Explaining the increase in major violent crime, Levy said: "You can always cherry-pick and say 'this one item went up.' "

Nassau County's police commissioner, Lawrence W. Mulvey, said he was pleased with the statistics, which reflect crime reports in the police district but exclude municipalities, such as Freeport and Hempstead, with their own police forces.

"I'm happy we're going to close the year down," Mulvey said Tuesday in an interview. "It was a really tough year."

Mulvey pegged the rise in home burglaries - 1,478, compared with 1,344 in 2008 - to the increase in commodities pricing.

"The residential burglaries you can attribute to the price of gold," Mulvey said. "An innocent gold ring sitting on someone's dresser top can be pawned for 40 dollars in a heartbeat - even a small wedding band."

He said police officers and detectives are working to stem the spike by collecting forensics - fingerprints and DNA left at crime scenes - to match to criminals; targeting pawnshops where thieves unload their wares; and using a system mounted on police vehicles and in communities that records all the license plates that pass by.

He said home burglaries are particularly grating.

"Your home's your castle," Mulvey said, adding: "it's a sacrosanct place."

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