The number of crimes in Maine dropped 6 percent last year from the previous year, marking the ninth consecutive year in which Maine has seen crimes decline, according to the state Department of Public Safety’s annual compilation of crime statistics.
The state agency published its annual report Monday, providing a look at crime in the state during the first year dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the number of crimes reported in Maine and the state’s crime rate have now fallen by more than 50 percent since 2011, the state agency warned that there’s still a crime every 30 minutes and 23 seconds in the state. And some categories of crime, such as rape, continue to be underreported.
The overall number of violent crimes, which include rape, homicide, robbery and assault, decreased by almost 5 percent from the previous year, according to the report.
Twenty-two homicides were reported in 2020, the same as the previous year. Five of those were classified as domestic violence-related homicides. That number stood at nine in 2019. Typically, about half of the state’s homicides are classified as domestic violence-related.
Robberies declined by 11.4 percent in 2020 from 2019, with 171 reported in 2020 versus 193 in 2019.
The Department of Public Safety also said there were 25 fewer reports of rape in 2020 than in 2019. There were 489 reported rapes or attempts to commit rape in 2020, down from 514 in 2019, which had been the highest number reported in Maine in the past decade.
“We know that an estimated 14,000 Mainers will experience [rape] each year, indicating that the vast majority of survivors are not reporting to law enforcement — a fact that has been further influenced by this pandemic,” said Elizabeth Ward Saxl, the executive director of the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Some types of crimes, like motor vehicle theft and arson, saw an increase between 2019 and 2020. There were 857 vehicle thefts in 2020, up 15.5 percent from 724 in 2019, the report said. There were 179 cases of arson in 2020, almost 19 percent more than the previous year’s total of 145.
Police also reported 83 hate crimes in 2020, more than four times the previous year’s total of 19 reported hate crimes.
Maine’s reported crime rate for 2020 was 12.85 for every 1,000 residents, down from 26.81 in 2011, according to the Department of Public Safety report.
The number of adults and minors who were summoned or cited by police in 2020 also declined from the previous year.
Some 30,615 adult Mainers were arrested in 2020, a 15.9 percent decline from the 36,412 adult Mainers who were arrested the year before.
The number of minors who were arrested in 2020 dropped by 32.7 percent, from 2,491 in 2019 to 1,689 in 2020.
In announcing the latest year of crime statistics on Monday, the Department of Public Safety said the state had seen a 62.7 percent decline in crimes since 2012.
The correct figure from calculating the percentage change, however, is a decline of 50.5 percent between 2012 and 2020.
The Department of Public Safety arrived at its figure by adding together the percentage change in the number of reported crimes between each of the last nine years. The percentage change over the nine-year period, however, is a calculation of the difference between the numbers of crimes in 2012 and 2020, divided by the 2012 figure.
When informed about the mathematical error, Department of Public Safety spokesperson Shannon Moss said the agency was “showing a trend over time that has shown a drop summing up to over 60 percentage points since 2012, not a direct comparison of [the] 2012 to 2020 number.
“With that said, moving forward we will discuss whether we should word it differently in future releases [so] as to avoid any confusion,” she said.
BDN editor Matthew Stone contributed to this report.