Homicides in the Washington region declined 23 percent last year, according to a report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

That drop is part of an 8 percent decrease in serious crime in the area in 2009 compared with the previous year, according to the report. Since 2005, area crime has dropped about 6 percent.

Those numbers are "very good news" for the area, said Stephen Holl, police chief for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Holl, the head of the COG police chiefs committee, presented the data to board members at their monthly meeting Wednesday.

The report compiled data on reported homicides, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, larcenies and motor vehicle thefts.

A total of 143,568 such offenses were reported in the 20 council jurisdictions last year, down from 156,025 in 2008.

Maryland saw the greatest decline in crime in 2009, with an 11 percent drop. Crime declined 6 percent in D.C. and 4 percent in Virginia.

Holl credited the declines to the expanded use of technology, citing tools like license-plate readers and the Law Enforcement Information Exchange, called LInX.

The license-plate readers are mounted on police cars and are used to monitor both parked and moving vehicles. Holl said the readers are linked to a database that tells officers whether a vehicle is stolen or the plate number matches information about a suspect in the database.

The LInX data-sharing system lets police retrieve information from 120 agencies in the Washington area, Holl said. He said it's a "terrific asset" for detectives and one of the most effective new technologies in curbing crime.

Violent crimes declined last year, with rapes down 8 percent and robberies and aggravated assaults both down 7 percent.

Only three of the jurisdictions included in the report saw crime increases last year. Crime was up 12 percent in Bowie, 2 percent in Manassas and 8 percent in Manassas Park. Bladensburg saw the largest decrease, with a 23 percent drop.

From 2005 to 2009, violent crime dropped 14 percent and property crime declined 5 percent. But burglaries and larcenies both increased during that time period.

Encouraging cooperation and building trust for police are key for declines in crime to continue, Holl said.

"We need witnesses and we need victims to come forward," he said.



Number of Crimes Reported "> "> Crime 2008 2009 Homicide: 367 284 Rape: 843 777 Robbery: 9,853 9,135 Aggravated assault: 9,059 8,395 Burglary: 18,998 18,202 Larceny: 96,424 90,524 Motor vehicle theft: 20,482 16,251