As Florida's schools empty, its jail cells fill


Published: Thursday, May 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2003 at 11:19 p.m.

If history repeats itself, more people will be heading to jail when school lets out, according to the Florida Department of Corrections, which released its annual report on inmates in state detention facilities in 2002.

The Alachua County jail had a daily average of 838 inmates last year. The highest number of people they had there was 885 in May. In December, the population dropped to 768.

The boost during the summer is par for the course, said Maj. Bob Chapman, jail director.

"As school is letting out for the summer, we seem to have a spike in our population," said Chapman, adding that he's noticed more inmates coming in every year.

Five years ago, the daily average population was about 670, he said. He attributes the increase to the county's population growth, declining economic conditions and a higher quality of law enforcement officers doing their job.

The local increases are reflected statewide.

An average of 53,350 people were being held in county jails in Florida each day last year, according to DOC. That's up from 48,477 in 2001.

  • Arson Awareness Week: Next week is Arson Awareness Week, and fire officials want people to know how dangerous arson is.

    Arson is not a victimless crime, said Michael Heeder, Gainesville Fire Rescue spokesman.

    "Any time you intentionally set a fire you run the risk of injury," Heeder said. "Even vacant buildings, even derelict cars or grasslands that are set on fire intentionally still can cause injuries to firefighters, innocent bystanders and good samaritans who try to help."

    Arson also causes property damage and land damage, he added.

    Arson killed more than 500 Americans in 2000, an increase of 36.5 percent from 1999.

  • About 75,000 structure fires were deliberately set or suspected of having been deliberately set, an increase of 4.2 percent from a year ago.

  • Suspicious structure fires resulted in $1.34 billion in property damage. This represents 15.7 percent of all structure property loss.

  • 46,500 vehicle fires of incendiary or suspicious origin occurred, an increase of 3.3 percent from a year ago, and caused $186 million in property damage.

    (Tips compiled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.)

  • Old military explosive found: An Interlachen resident found out recently you never know what might be in your family's attic.

    The man recently cleared out the attic of a deceased relative in New Jersey. He found a military "ruck sack" (backpack) belonging to the relative, who had served in World War II, and brought it home to Interlachen.

    When he opened it, he found what appeared to be an explosive device, according to the Putnam County Sheriff's Office.

    Members of the St. Johns County Bomb Squad detonated the device, which authorities said appeared to be a detonating fuse for a large artillery shell. The shell was live and apparently contained some type of explosive.

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