New numbers are coming in from the FBI on crime, and it's not good for the city of Huntsville.
The FBI reports that violent crime in the Rocket City skyrocketed by a whopping 29% from 2010 to 2011, even as the national average for the same category dropped by 4%.
Murders, burglaries and theft all showed slight to moderate increases in Huntsville, but the real jaw-dropper came in aggravated assaults, which showed a staggering 66% spike over the two-year period.
The FBI analyzed numbers in cities across the country in its annual preliminary Uniform Crime Report, but officials at the Huntsville Police Department told WHNT News 19 that they do not believe the data. Police spokesman Sgt. Mark Roberts said the aggravated assault numbers were botched somewhere in the reporting process to the FBI, inflating overall violent crime numbers. Roberts called the FBI's measure of 1,049 aggravated assaults in 2011 inaccurate, and said HPD numbers showed somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 fewer assaults.
"I hope people don't read much into these numbers, because I don't think it's fair," said Roberts. "From what we reported and what they reported was totally different...We've got a call into the state, we probably have some kind of answer in the next two to three days on what happened in that category. They will compare what we sent to them, and try to compare what we put in."
Huntsville Police officials said the FBI has made mistakes in past preliminary reports, and says public judgment should be reserved. But some community advocacy groups said the latest numbers should serve as a wake-up call to Huntsville residents.
"The numbers aren't lying now, which show there really is an issue," said Tony Cannizzo, founder of the "Make Huntsville Safe Again" Facebook group. "29% is very significant, that's not an anomaly, and can't be just coincidence...The national average is going down, and ours is going up."
The FBI will finalize its Uniform Crime Report later this year. The report did show that rapes and robberies both declined in Huntsville from 2010 to 2011, numbers that HPD officials did not dispute.
The FBI said overall violent crime dropped in both Mobile and Montgomery. A comparison for Birmingham could not be made as that city's police department did not report final crime statistics for 2010.
To read the full FBI preliminary data, go to http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/preliminary-annual-ucr-jan-dec-2011/data-tables/table-4/table-4-alabama-california