Local/State crime rates

Lazaro Aleman, ECB Publishing, Inc.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) last week released its Uniform Crime Report for 2017, an annual compilation of arrest and offense data from the countless law-enforcement agencies across the state and showing, as it were, the state's state of crime.

The statistics reflect what are called index crimes, which number seven and are divided into violent and property offenses -- the former consisting of murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, and the latter consisting of burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

These latest statistics show that statewide the overall crime rate dropped six percent in 2017 compared with 2016, the lowest it's been since 1970, when the FDLE began keeping a record. Overall, violent crimes dropped 4.9 percent and property crimes dropped 6.2 percent across the state in 2017.

In Jefferson County, however, the report shows a slight increase in the number of reported offenses in 2017, up 20.4 percent from 2016. This translates into 354 reported offenses in 2017, versus 294 offenses in 2016, with aggravated assault and larceny the leading causes of the increase. At the same time, the overall clearance rate per 100 offenses dropped slightly, from 44.2 percent in 2016 to 43.5 percent in 2017.

Other of the major index crimes, however, dropped slightly or remained the same locally between the two years.

Florida overall had 612,374 index crimes in 2017, compared with 641,014 in 2016. Of the 612,374 crimes, 85,558 were violent and 526,816 were property-related, accounting for the 6.0 percent decrease from the previous year. In fact, with the exception of rape, which rose 4.6 percent in 2017, all the others index crimes declined statewide during the year.

A comparative breakdown of the index crimes across the state in 2017 and 2016 (shown in parenthesis) shows 1,057 murders in 2017 (vs 1,108 in 2016), a 4.6-percent decrease; 7,934 rapes (vs 7,583), a 4.6-percent increase; 18,583 robberies (vs 20,132), a 7.7-percent decrease; 57,984 aggravated assaults (vs 59,678), a 2.8-percent decrease; 88,778 burglaries (vs 100,090), a 11.3-percent decrease; 395,149 larcenies (vs 409,379), a 3.5-percent decrease; and 42,889 motor vehicle thefts (vs 43,044), a 0.4-percent decrease.

The trend in the dropping crime rate is reflected in a five-year comparison showing that total index crimes declined steadily between 2013 and 2017, even as the state's population increased. In 2013, for example, the state had a total of 695,306 index crimes and a population of 19,259,543. Whereas in 2017, the index crimes numbered 612,374, and the population was 20,484,142.

Indeed, according to the FDLE, in the 20-year period from 1997 to 2017, violent crimes dropped 41.8 percent statewide, from 146,929 reported offenses in 1997 to 85,558 in 2017.

States the FDLE website, “The overall violent crime rate has had a significant decrease of 58.2 percent during the 20-year period, all the while that the state's population has increased 39.2 percent.”

In Jefferson County, the population likewise increased modestly between 2016 and 2017, from 14,498 to 14,611, respectively, according to the FDLE. Unlike the state, however, the number of reported index crimes increased, from 294 in 2016 to 354 in 2017.

A breakdown of the 354 offenses in 2017, compared with their 2016 equivalents (shown in parenthesis) shows: murder, 0 (1); rapes, 5 (10); robberies, 3 (3); aggravated assaults, 110 (93); burglaries, 82 (82); larceny, 139 (89); and motor vehicle theft, 15 (16). The combined overall clearance rate for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) and Monticello Police Department (MPD) was 43.5 percent in 2017, versus 44.2 percent in 2016.

Aggravated assault includes aggravated stalking and involves the use of firearms, knives, cutting instruments and hands, fists, feet or other objects. Larceny includes pocket-picking, purse snatching, shoplifting, bicycle thefts and the like.

A breakdown of the 354 local crimes by law-enforcement agencies in 2017 shows the JCSO handled 287; the MPD, 66; and the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), one.

Of the 287 incidents that the JCSO handled, five were rapes; 100 were aggravated assaults; 58 were burglaries; 110 were larcenies; and 12 were vehicle thefts. The JCSO had a clearance rate of 45.6 percent.

Of the 66 incidents that the MPD handled, one was a robbery; 10 were aggravated assaults; 24 were burglaries; 29 were larcenies; and two were motor vehicle thefts. The MPD had a clearance rate of 33.3 percent.

The FHP handled one incident of motor vehicle theft. A total of 460 arrests were made in Jefferson County in 2017, compared with 469 in 2016. Of the 460 arrests, 407 were adults and 17 juveniles. In terms of index crimes, 37 of the 460 arrests were for aggravated assault, 15 for burglary, 14 for larceny and four for motor vehicle theft. The JCSO made 282 of the 460 arrests; the MPD made 103; the Jefferson Department of Corrections Inspector General made three; the Fish and Freshwater Conservation Commission made 21; and the FHP made 51. Aside from the index crime, the other arrests included one kidnap/abduction, 33 simple assaults, 100 drug-related offenses, 42 DUIs and 11 weapons violations.