Army: Suicides down, but violent crime up

U.S. Army soldiers from the 3-7 Field Artillery run past armored MRAP vehicles at Forward Operating Base Torkham in Torkham, Afghanistan in this August 27, 2011 film photo.
John Moore/Getty Images

WASHINGTON - A new Army report says the number of suicides among soldiers has been leveling off, but there has been a dramatic jump in domestic violence, sex crimes and other destructive behavior in a force that has been stressed by a decade of war.

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli said Thursday that violent sex crimes and domestic violence have increased more than 30 percent since 2006 and child abuse by 43 percent.

Chiarelli was releasing a 200-page report on the health of the troops and the Army's efforts to address the problem.

It said that 278 soldiers in the active duty, Guard and Reserve committed suicide last year compared to 304 in 2010.

Chiarelli told USA Today: "I think we've at least arrested this problem and hopefully will start to push it down. For all practical purposes ... it has leveled off."

The change is the first decline in suicide rates four years, USA Today reports, adding that the Army first experienced an upswing in suicides in 2004.

While that is a good sign, the suicide rate in the Army, estimated at 24 per 100,000 last year, remains far higher than a similar demographic among civilians, estimated at 19 per 100,000, according to USA Today. The rate among soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan ranges even higher, up to 38 per 100,000, the Army says.