By Matt Goodman, CBSDFW.COM

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – One day after the department announced the city’s crime rate dropped for the seventh consecutive year, Police Chief David Brown voiced the importance of neighborhood involvement in continuing the historic trend during a LULAC-hosted breakfast Saturday.

“We have reduced crime every year for seven consecutive years,” Brown told a group of about 40. “The story is, we’ve segmented the highest crime areas and deployed resources, officers, to those high crime areas.”

According to the department’s 2010 Crime Summary, the overall crime rate fell 10.2 percent last year. Since the rate began its steady descent seven years ago, crime in Dallas has fallen just more than 36 percent.

The report credits the decrease with the police department strategically targeting high-crime areas, as well as boosting the number of officers to the most in the department’s history.

Murders in Dallas continued to decline, hitting the lowest number – 148 – since 1967. With murders down 10.8 percent compared to 2009, all violent crime fell 10.4 percent. Nonviolent crime also skidded 10.1 percent.

There were about 500 fewer robberies, an 18 percent drop. Aggravated assaults fell 1.2 percent, with 4,021 in 2010 and 4,069 in 2009.

Reported rapes were the only violent statistic to increase during the period. There were 505 reported in 2010 versus 485 in 2009, about a five percent increase.

For nonviolent crimes, only burglary jumped .9 percent. The city logged 19,428 in 2009 and 19,594 in 2010. Theft fell about 13 percent, and auto theft dropped about 20 percent.

Brown, though visibly proud of the reductions, told residents at the LULAC breakfast that there was still work to be done.

“If you know anything about crime in Dallas, you know if you leave anything in your car it’s going to get stolen,” Brown said. “If you’re not involved in an active neighborhood watch, you’re going to have a lot of burglaries.”

There are currently 500 neighborhood watch programs within the city, and Brown said he hopes to add another 200 throughout 2011. These resident-driven programs boost public safety and awareness within neighborhoods, but, as Brown noted, “that still won’t be enough.”

There are 1.3 million residents in Dallas, and the city has added nearly 700 new officers since 2007 to bolster patrols. Brown said even with about 3,700 police officers, residents must take an active approach in monitoring their surroundings.

“It’s going to require participation in a city with 380 square miles; we’re very spread out,” he said. “Pleasant Grove needs to hear what’s happening in Pleasant Grove before they read it in the paper. Same thing in Oak Cliff, South Dallas and all parts of Northeast and Far North Dallas.”

He mentioned the city’s pride in its many neighborhoods, and flouted his Oak Cliff roots early into his speech. For Brown, combating the city’s nonviolent crimes – which he said make up 88 percent of all criminal activity in Dallas – require neighborhoods to join together and foster an active relationship with the police department, something he said isn’t happening city-wide.

“We have 3,600-plus police officers now in this city, that’s the largest amount ever,” Brown said. “We have a lot of boots on the ground, but compare that to 1.3 million people. There’s not enough of us.”

The 50-year average crime rate in Dallas is 85.66, and 2010 sat at 55.67. During the 1960s, the city averaged a crime rate of 46.90, which jumped to 93.71 in the 1970s. The reason Brown was proud of the results is the city’s population: The low rate harkens back to the 1960s, despite Dallas having about 650,000 more residents.

“This is something that is uncharted water for our departments,” Brown said. “We’ve never had these consecutive runs – these deep reductions – and we’ve never done it eight consecutive times.”