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    Violent crime levels remain low on MBTA, Transit Police say

    Transit Police Superintendent Richard Sullivan stressed that part one crimes remained down in 2017 compared with several years prior.
    David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File 2016
    Transit Police Superintendent Richard Sullivan stressed that part one crimes remained down in 2017 compared with several years prior.

    Assaults and larcenies were up slightly on the MBTA last year compared with 2016, but violent crime on the transit system remained at historically low levels, according to officials and Transit Police statistics.

    There were 139 aggravated assaults last year, compared with 118 in 2016, department data show. Larceny reports jumped from 475 in 2016 to 501 last year. And there were two reports of rape or assault to rape last year, compared with just one in 2016.

    On the plus side, robberies were down, with 119 reported last year compared with 148 in 2016. Burglaries also dipped, with 14 reported last year, compared with 19 in 2016. Twenty-one vehicles were stolen, six fewer than in 2016, and arsons fell from five in 2016 to two last year.

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    In a phone interview, Transit Police Superintendent Richard Sullivan stressed that part one crimes remained down in 2017 compared with several years prior.

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    Part one crimes include homicide, rape, assault to rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, auto theft, and arson. The T averaged 1,000 such crimes annually from 2011 to 2015, Sullivan said.

    Fast forward to the last two years, when the overall picture has looked brighter, with 793 part one crimes in 2016 and 798 last year.

    “It wasn’t an accident,” Sullivan said. “It wasn’t a fluke. It was a direct correlation to the new patrol plan [instituted in 2016] and the men and women who, day in and day out, police a vast underground city unto itself.”

    He cited several factors, including juvenile outreach with the Boston Public Schools and point-of-entry policing, when officers nab fare evaders and loiterers who often have warrants for more serious offenses, as reasons for the decline.

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    He blamed last year’s slight uptick from 2016 on a brazen Providence-based crew that stole tires off cars in commuter rail lots. The assailants committed about 20 thefts and were “literally leaving the vehicles on blocks” after removing tires, Sullivan said.

    He said Transit Police investigators are part of a task force targeting the crew. Some arrests have been made, and “the thefts have drastically decreased,” the superintendent said.

    “There’s always room for improvement,” he said. “We don’t get lost in these numbers. Behind these numbers are victims, and one victim for us is too many.”

    Sullivan said he’s pleased that officers have reduced crime while making fewer arrests. They made 1,098 arrests last year, compared with 1,386 in 2016. During 2014 and 2015, he said, the department averaged 1,398 arrests.

    Transit police announced one notable arrest this week.

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    They apprehended Jose Nunez, 28, of Somerville, for an alleged indecent assault of a woman on an escalator at Broadway Station on Monday night, and he blithely confessed, police said in a statement.

    Nunez, the release said, told arresting officers, “What’s the big deal . . . I wanted to do it.”

    Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.