Major crimes climbed 11 percent in the Tri-Cities last year compared to 2010, with assaults, burglaries and thefts contributing to the rise.
Crimes of opportunity, gang-related activity and economic factors were cited by law enforcement officials Monday as reasons for the increase.
They emphasized the importance of continued collaboration in fighting crime and the fact that the Tri-Cities is still one of the safest communities in the state.
"The numbers are still lower than Washington's numbers, and they're still lower than the national numbers," said Pasco Police Chief Robert Metzger.
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Law enforcement recorded more than 7,500 crimes in 2011, or roughly 29 crimes per 1,000 people in the region, according to data released by law enforcement agencies Monday.
That's up from more than 6,700 crimes, or about 27 crimes per 1,000 people, the year before.
The Washington average is 40 crimes per 1,000 and the national average is 34 crimes per 1,000 people.
Richland saw the most dramatic increase in crimes with 453 more incidents last year, raising its crime rate to 30 crimes per 1,000 people.
Assaults, burglaries and thefts were up in nearly every community.
Police chiefs and sheriffs emphasized that a lot of the property crimes happened after items were left out in the open and doors were left unlocked. Richland Police Chief Chris Skinner said76 percent of the car break-ins in his jurisdiction involved unlocked doors.
Gang activity also played into the increase in crime, and not just in thefts and burglaries. Benton County Sheriff Steve Keane said the six arsons investigated by his office involved vehicles that were stolen, stripped of their parts and then burned to get rid of evidence.
Skinner said his agency also has seen an increase in the number of domestic violence situations his officers are responding to. He said the increase could be the result of economic factors jarring already fragile family dynamics.
"Family violence is very important for us to pay attention to," he said.
Officials said they are taking steps to continue combating crime.
Skinner said the region's Auto Theft Task Force recently received a $20,000 grant for training and equipment. Agencies are working with Microsoft to develop a database to track stolen vehicles.
Franklin County Sheriff Richard Lathim said his agency has worked to increase its visibility in the community to discourage crime. Overall serious crime in the county dropped 4 percent.
Joint efforts between agencies and entities in the area, from school districts to homeowner associations, are another big factor in keeping the region's crime in check, officials said.
"(Agency collaboration) has only gotten stronger," said Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg.
But law enforcement officials said more resources may be needed.
The Tri-Cities population grew4 percent between 2010 and 2011. That growth hasn't necessarily correlated into funding for more officers on the street.
"I think our challenge is going to be how are we going to do this as we grow in the future," Hohenberg said.
-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; email@example.com