Local crime dips, but minority youths make up many of those arrested


Published: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 8:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 8:51 p.m.

Falling crime rates, fewer traffic deaths and a disproportionate number of minority juveniles being arrested were some of the key topics at a community meeting held by the Gainesville Police Department on Wednesday night.

The meeting drew residents from throughout the city to the Senior Recreation Center in northwest Gainesville to get the latest update from Chief Tony Jones and other key GPD personnel on crime and programs aimed at reducing crime.

“As I said when I took this job, we are not going to arrest our way out of crime,” Jones said. “We are committed to reducing the arrest of minorities. Minorities make up roughly 31 percent in the school system but when we look at the arrest rate, they are 71 percent. We must do something about it.”

Overall crime in the seven categories tracked by the state and the FBI dropped 2.51 percent for the first six months of 2013. A total of 2,792 crimes were reported, compared with 2,864 in the first half of 2012 and 2,890 in 2011.

In the first half of 2013, Gainesville had 419 violent crimes — murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault — compared with 444 in 2012 and 452 in 2011.

Property crime also dropped.

Lt. Will Halvosa, GPD's crime reduction manager, said home burglaries have dropped 24 percent.

“Residential burglaries are down over 100 in the first six months,” Halvosa said. “We take residential burglaries very seriously. We've had some success, but we have a lot more work to do.”

The city is also on pace to have fewer traffic fatalities and crashes involving pedestrians. Last year seven people died on city roads while so far this year two have died. Halvosa said the GPD traffic unit has added safety measures on several streets.

Meanwhile, data show that a disproportionate number of black children are arrested in Gainesville and a disproportionate number of arrested black children are transferred to adult court.

Jones said he wants to learn why that is and what can be done to address it.

GPD has gotten grants of $25,000 for each of the next two years and has contracted with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Children's Law and Policy to oversee a process that will include a review of data, policies and procedures, practices and other actions centered on the handling of juveniles who commit crime.

The process will involve GPD, the Alachua County Sheriff's Office, the school district, the state Probation and Parole office, the offices of the state attorney and public defender, and others.

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