Colorado Springs saw a slight uptick in reported crimes from 2015 to 2016, with more dramatic increases in rapes, motor vehicle thefts and robberies, say data released Tuesday by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
The increase follows a statewide trend, though a comparison is difficult to make because crimes are categorized differently in the statewide and Colorado Springs Police Department data sets.
The number of major crimes reported statewide last year - 203,765 - was 5.5 percent higher than the 2015 total. In Colorado Springs, the increase was 1.16 percent.
"These things are relative," said Jonathan Caudill, director of the master of criminal justice program at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. "A comparison of 2016 to 2015 tells one story, but what does it tell in comparison to 2014 and 2013 and looking at these longer-term trends and national trends?"
A police spokesman could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
In Colorado Springs, the biggest increases were in reported rapes, 20.91 percent; motor vehicle thefts, 19.61 percent; and robberies, 15.53 percent, the data show.
Statewide, by far the largest increase came in motor vehicle thefts, up 22 percent.
Increases in robberies and motor vehicle thefts, crimes with high reporting rates, are often reliable indicators that crime is up, Caudill said. Rape can be difficult to assess because it's such an underreported crime, he said.
More robbers seemed to be using firearms, up 24.86 percent, or a strong-arm approach, an increase of 32.74 percent. Use of cutting instruments or other dangerous weapons decreased.
And homicides went down in Colorado Springs from 2015 to 2016, bucking the statewide trend.
Last year, 19 local homicides were reported, three fewer than the year before. But across Colorado, homicides went up 9.9 percent - from 172 in 2015 to 189 in 2016.
And negligent manslaughters disappeared in Colorado Springs in 2016, after four reported in 2015.
What's important to remember about crime data is that it's only one source of information about the state of crime in a city, said Caudill. Data are rife with limitations, which can be identified by examining historical trends and external influences.
Without putting data in context, "you might be missing part of a bigger trend," he said, as few definite conclusions can be made by analyzing numbers on their own.
"Trying to connect certainty to statistics is a statistical fallacy," Caudill said.
To view CBI's Crime in Colorado report for 2016, including data from agencies across the state, visit crimeinco.cbi.state.co.us/cic2k16.
Contact Ellie Mulder: 636-0198