New data: Number of serious crimes drops in county, state
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 2:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 2:43 p.m.
The number of serious violent and property crimes — or at least the ones tracked by state and federal law enforcement — dropped slightly in Alachua County from 2010 to 2011, while the Gainesville Police Department's load of such cases dropped by more than 9 percent, according to data released this week.
Overall, the crime rate in Florida last year was the lowest in 41 years, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced as it released its annual Uniform Crime Report, showing that violent crime had dropped by nearly 4 percent.
The total number of so-called index crimes — murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft — declined in Florida by 0.1 percent and in Alachua County by almost 2.4 percent.
However, based on the Alachua County population count used in the UCR, the report showed that the overall crime rate went up 0.9 percent in the county.
The UCR used figures that showed Alachua County's population dropped by 3 percent from 2010 to 2011, though the 2010 number likely was an estimate issued before the census was conducted that year, said Scott Cody, a demographer with the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, which provides the population data for the report.
Using the more accurate Census Bureau count for 2010 and the bureau's revised estimate for 2011, Alachua County's population was virtually unchanged, meaning the crime rate dropped by 2.37 percent.
While the shifts were relatively small, there has been a downward trend in local crime numbers over the past decade.
In 2001, when Alachua County's population was 222,935, there were 13,622 index crimes reported, resulting in a crime rate of 6,110.3, compared with the crime rate of 4,249.7 last year, when 10,511 index crimes were reported.
That gave Alachua County, the 23rd most populated of Florida's 67 counties, the 12th-highest crime rate in the state for 2011.
Still, the crime rate dropped by 30.45 percent between 2001 and 2011, the largest drop of the 12 counties that had the highest crime rates in 2011. Miami-Dade County, with the highest crime rate in the state, had the second-highest drop of those counties with a 28.5 percent decrease.
Alachua County Sheriff's Office spokesman Art Forgey said that while law-enforcement agencies like to examine the numbers, there are a lot of things they don't show.
While types of crime have changed with technology, the Uniform Crime Report has not, said Forgey, who started his career as a police officer in Missouri in 1988.
"Obviously, it's a different time now than it was then," he said. "There was no such thing as electronic crime, or very little of it."
He pointed out that the Uniform Crime Report, which is standard throughout the United States, doesn't track crimes outside the index crimes.
Still, he credited the drop in crime locally to Sheriff Sadie Darnell's implementation about three years ago of a new style of policing that focuses on specific communities, assigning deputies to work only in certain zones so they get to know the residents and issues there.
"They may be experiencing a totally different problem there," Forgey said. "By these deputies being assigned to their zones gives them some personal buy-in and gives the community a chance to know who these deputies are."
Claudia Hendrix, GPD's records coordinator, monitors the UCR data on a regular basis and said there was a dramatic drop in crime from 2009 to 2010 in the city — from 7,540 index crimes in 2009 to 6,310 in 2010, a drop of 16.3 percent.
Hendrix said that meant a similarly steep drop was unlikely again, as there was less room to fall.
"To match that would almost be impossible," she said. "At least we weren't up. That was encouraging."
Hendrix said the number of violent crimes such as murder and sexual assault was similar from 2010 to 2011, though there were notable drops in burglaries and robberies.
Contact Chad Smith at 338-3104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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