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Santa Monica police officers take a photo of a burglary suspect who was apprehended last week. Stats provided by the SMPD show that crime held fairly steady in 2011 compared to the year before. (photo by Doug Olmedo)

PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — Crime in Santa Monica held mostly stable last year, with the largest decrease seen in reports of theft, according to statistics released by the Santa Monica Police Department.

The department reports the information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which put out its preliminary 2011 Uniform Crime Report this month.

The report, which will be finalized in September, compiles information on reported crimes from more than 18,000 city, university, college, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies to provide a snapshot of crime in the United States each year.

According to the preliminary figures, law enforcement across the country reported a decrease of 4 percent in the number of violent crimes reported in 2011 compared with 2010 figures.

Property crimes like burglary, theft and auto theft dropped less than 1 percent, and arson fell by 5 percent, according to the report.

Santa Monica doesn’t have a population large enough to be included in the preliminary report, but the police department released figures to the Daily Press that it gave to the FBI for its calculations.

According to those numbers, most of the major categories of crimes in Santa Monica either held even or dropped from 2010.

Just as in last year, SMPD reported one murder to federal officials. Robberies decreased by almost 23 percent from 167 instances to 129, and aggravated assault ticked up only slightly from 212 reports in 2010 to 213 in 2011.

The largest drop came in thefts, which fell from 2,541 reports in 2010 to 2,299 in 2011.

Former Police Chief Timothy Jackman told the Daily Press in September 2011 that theft, particularly out of vehicles, was a real point of concern and would be a focus for his department in the coming year.

The news was not all sunshine and roses.

Motor vehicle thefts increased from 166 reports to 189 this year, and burglaries also increased by 72 reports or 17.4 percent.

The largest numerical increase, however, came in the category of forcible rape. According to statistics released this year, there were 24 reports of rape compared to 12 last year.

The large increase reflects a change in FBI policy announced by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in January that broadened the definition of “rape” used in compiling the crime statistics.

For the last eight decades that the FBI has released the Uniform Crime Report, it used a very limited definition of rape that read “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.”

That definition only included male on female violence, and only as a result of vaginal penetration.

The new definition includes victims or perpetrators of any gender. It also counts times when the victim is incapable of giving consent, be it a result of drugs, alcohol or age of consent.

ashley@smdp.com