Crime rates fall by double digits in city, county
Rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults and car thefts were down; murders were up.
Published: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 11:32 p.m.
Major crime rates in Gainesville and Alachua County have dropped by double digits for the first half of 2010 compared with the same six months in 2009.
Law enforcement credits the reductions to improved policing and greater involvement by residents in the crime-fighting effort.
Rapes were down 51.9 percent in areas covered by the Alachua County Sheriff's Office and 22.58 percent in areas covered by the Gainesville Police Department.
Robberies were down 47.1 percent in the county and 20.34 percent in the city. Aggravated assaults were down 31.1 percent in the county and 27.3 percent in the city.
Property crimes such as burglary, larceny and car theft also dropped.
The city and the county have had more murders this year - two for the county compared with none last year, while the city has had three this year compared with two in 2009.
Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones said Tuesday that a reorganization that put more officers on the street combined with better reporting of crimes by residents are the two main factors in the falling crime rates.
"I'd like to (credit) the hard work of the men and women of the Gainesville Police Department. They have been focused. We redeployed a lot of people back into our operations division," Jones said. "But equally, in a lot of those cases, you've got to say it was from the community. A lot of time it was the community that called in the suspicious incidents."
A series of robberies and burglaries in Gainesville in 2009 in part prompted the GPD reorganization. Jones then set a goal of a 5 percent reduction in crime this year.
As part of the reorganization, Jones held several community meetings to ask the public for help by reporting suspicious activity. Officers also met with neighborhood crime watch groups to stress the importance of that.
It's worked so far, but Jones said the effort must continue.
"I caution everyone that this is the first six months - we still have to get through the second six months," Jones said.
Sheriff's Lt. Steve Maynard said the crime dip is contrary to conventional increases during rough economic times. Maynard added that he was surprised by the data. He said the fact that other agencies are recording decreases indicates that something more than just good policing is going on.
"There has to be something more to it. I don't know what the answer is," Maynard said. "We may be more efficient with our resources."
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