Hesperia's growing population didn't translate into higher crime statistics in 2007, and it may have helped make roads a little safer.


According to preliminary statistics collected by the Hesperia station of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, the most serious crimes -- known as Part I Crimes in department parlance -- decreased slightly in 2007, despite the city's population going up.


Part I crimes, "which are our violent crimes and major felonies," in the words of Hesperia station Captain Lance Clark on Thursday, dropped from 2,668 in 2006 to 2,660.


During the same period, the city's population grew by approximately 5,000 residents, to a current total of about 87,000 residents, according to city spokeswoman Kelly Malloy.


The Hesperia station's growth is unlikely to keep pace with the city's population this year, according to Mayor Mike Leonard, who said it's unlikely there will be additional funds for more deputies in the 2008-2009 budget. But that doesn't mean there won't be additional officers.


"We budgeted for six new ones in the last budget, and they've brought on four, so there's two more to bring on," Leonard said Friday. "We're ahead of their training center, which is good."


"We did really good as far as reducing fatal and major injury traffic collisions," Clark said.


There were 113 traffic collisions with injuries (including death) in 2006 and only 59 in 2007.


"A lot of that has to do with the enhanced staffing we put into our traffic unit. We've added two [more units] this year, two additional deputies," Clark said. "Some of it also has to do with the increased congestion on Main Street, which reduces traffic speed at peak times. I wish I could take credit for that, but I can't."


But even if fewer serious crimes are being committed in the city and there are fewer dangerous traffic collisions, department personnel aren't getting to take it easy: Calls for service went up 10 percent in 2007, rising from 81,370 to 89,951.


"As far as the numbers, I guess there's two ways to look at it," Leonard said. "More people mean more crime, or more cops on the streets mean more reports."


"That's higher than the population growth," Clark said. "We didn't grow by 10 percent last year. Not really sure of the reason for that, but it's something for us to watch."


Although the public safety gains weren't evenly distributed throughout the year -- May and July 2007 had more injury accidents than the same months in 2006 -- there were more calls for service in every month in 2007 than the corresponding month in 2006.


"Generally, I'm pretty pleased with these statistics, '07 as compared to '06," Clark said. "The biggest thing we have to keep track of is patrol activity [and] nipping things in the bud."


"I think they do a good job," Leonard said.


More detailed crime statistics will be available in March.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at beau@hesperiastar.com or 956-7108.