Crime in Maine decreased in 2019 for the eighth straight year in nearly all categories, according to the Maine Department of Public Safety, which compiles statistics.
The crime rate fell from 2018 to 2019 in every county in the state except for Aroostook County where it rose from 11.15 percent to 11.74 percent. The greatest decrease was in Waldo County where the crime rate fell from 6.05 percent to 3.83 percent.
Penobscot County, at 16.14 percent, had the highest crime rate in the state for the second year in a row, while Waldo County again had the lowest crime rate.
Reports of crimes overall were down 6.6 percent in 2019 from 2018.
Violent crimes went up 3 percent from 2018. The number of arsons increased by 39 percent over 2018, rapes were up 15 percent, most likely due to an increase in the number reported to authorities.
There were 22 homicides reported in 2019, one less than reported in 2018. Nine of the homicides were domestic violence related, the report said.
The 18,468 crimes reported in 2019 represent a crime rate of 14 offenses per 1,000 people in Maine, the department said. That number compares to the national crime rate of 25 offenses per 1,000 people for 2018.
The total number of both adults and juveniles summoned or cited by police decreased for 2019. Adult arrests were down 3.7 percent in 2019 with 36,412 arrests/summons reported compared to 37,809 in 2018. The number of juveniles summoned or arrested decreased 12.7 percent in 2019 as reforms continue to be implemented to keep children out of the criminal justice system.
In 2019, 145 incidents of arson were reported compared to the 104 reported the previous year. The property damaged or destroyed was valued at more than $3.4 million.
Sixty-seven more rapes were reported in 2019 than in 2018 for a total of 514 indicents.
Rape is one of the most unreported crimes, according to Elizabeth Saxl-Ward, executive director of the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
“According to a Muskie study, approximately 14,000 Mainers are the victims of sexual violence each year, so it may in fact be good news to see reports of sexual assault to law enforcement go up from 447 to 514, perhaps an indication that more victims were willing to make reports to the police last year,” she said in the report.
Nineteen hate crimes were reported in 2019 down from 40 in 2016. The most commonly reported bias motivation was race or ethnicity, followed by sexual orientation.
Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck credited Maine’s police officers for the steady crime drop.
“An eight-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,” Sauschuck said. “While statistics provide an important benchmark for all our professions, first responders and the tireless advocates we work with know that these numbers are, in fact, Mainers who have been traumatized by crime.
“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,” he said.
Crime statistics, usually released in October, were delayed this year, in part, because of the pandemic, Katharine England, interim spokesperson for the department, said Monday. A change in publishers and England’s taking over the public information officer position mid-year also were factors.