Violent crime in Douglas County decreased 18 percent in 2007, Sheriff Ron Pierini said Tuesday.
The sheriff released Uniform Crime Report data from the Nevada Attorney General's office that showed a decrease in violent crime from 2006 despite a 3.31 percent increase in the county's population.
According to statistics, the 2006 Douglas County population was 50,108 residents with 85 violent crimes reported.
The 2007 county population was 51,770 residents with 69 violent crimes reported.
Violent crimes include murder, rape and sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault.
Pierini also reported the 2007 crime clearance rate for the Douglas County Sheriff's Office was 10 percent higher than the average for Nevada law enforcement agencies, and 6 percent higher than the national average for law enforcement.
"We're looking at more population and fewer law enforcement personnel," Pierini said. "I am very proud of the people who work for us. We have some extremely talented people."
Pierini said he was proud of the sheriff's office crime clearance rate of 25.42 percent. Nationwide, the rate is 19.30 percent and the state rate is 14.90 percent.
Pierini said he believes part of that success rate comes from community support.
"People are more apt to report crime and give you clues if they trust you," he said. "We can absolutely not do it ourselves."
The sheriff said he hopes the department will be fully staffed by the end of they year.
"We were as high as 10 positions down, now we're looking at five positions that need to be filled," Pierini said.
"We get a lot of applicants, but we look for the best qualified candidates and some of those don't meet our standards," he said.
Two officers, deputies Marshall Flagg and Rick Koontz, graduated with honors last week from the Peace Officers Standards and Training Academy in Carson City.
Flagg received the highest academic award and was selected to be class speaker.
Pierini said he is concerned about gang problems and increased graffiti in Douglas County.
The sheriff said he was hoping for more community involvement when people see vandals leaving graffiti.
"We really need to have people call us," he said. "Once they're (vandals) are gone, it's difficult to prove who did it. We need outside help. If caught and convicted, they can be ordered to clean it up and pay for damages."
Pierini said the department is creating a gang activity unit to combat the problem he said is showing up at the middle school level.
"We are trying to continue with our zero tolerance for gang activity. But as Douglas County grows, we're not naive enough to think we're immune. Our stance has been, 'You can live here, but you can't play here.'"
With no murders in 2007, the county recorded its first in 2008 on Feb. 21 with the shooting death of 36-year-old Ben Oxley in his Wildhorse Lane home.
"We're still working diligently on the case," Pierini said. "It's still open and we have not given up by any means."
The sheriff's office hopes a $22,500 Secret Witness reward will prompt more tips.
"We've dedicated a lot of resources to this investigation. We have a lack of involvement from the community and hope they will help us out," Pierini said.