ECB Publishing, Inc.
Despite Florida's continuing declining crime rate, Jefferson was one of 13 counties in the state to see its crime rate increase in 2018, according to just-released figures from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
The FDLE's Annual Uniform Crime Report – released on Monday, June 24 – shows Florida's overall crime rate dropped nine percent in 2018, continuing a trend that began in 1970.
The report shows a statewide decrease of most of the major index crimes, with 45,154 fewer such offenses reported in 2018 than in 2017, making for a 7.4 percent decline.
The major index crimes, which number seven, are divided into violent and property offenses. The violent ones are murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. And the property ones are burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.
The two major index crimes that didn't decrease in 2018 were murder and rape. The first rose by 4.7 percent and the second by 6.3 percent.
Which statewide percentages translate into 1,107 murders in 2018 versus 1,057 in 2017, and 8,436 rapes in 2018 versus 7,934 in 2017.
All the other index crimes decreased statewide in 2018, compared with 2017, as follows, respectively: robbery – 16,862
versus 18,583, a 9.3 percent decrease; aggravated assault – 55,491 versus 57,929, a 4.2 percent decrease; burglary – 71,801 versus 88,778, a 19.1 percent decrease; larceny – 372,350 versus 395,150, a 5.8 decrease; and motor vehicle theft – 41,119 versus 42,889, a 4.1 decrease.
The total number of major index crime statewide in 2018 was 567,166, compared with 612,320 in 2017, accounting for the 7.4 percent decrease.
Meanwhile, at the local level – contrary to the statewide trend – the index crime rate increased 17.4 percent, from a potential 2,053.2 crimes per 100,000 residents in 2017 to 2,409.6 crimes per 100,00 residents in 2018.
Stated another way, from a data point of view, Jefferson County had 355 index crimes in 2018, versus 300 in 2017, with burglaries showing the biggest increase. The county's population also registered a small increase, from 14,611 residents in 2017 to 14,733 in 2018.
A breakdown of the 355 crimes shows two murders, four rapes, five robberies, 74 aggravated assaults, 120 burglaries, 129 larcenies and 21 auto thefts. In 2017, the corresponding figures were zero murder, five rapes, three robberies, 55 aggravated assaults, 82 burglaries, 140 larcenies and 15 auto thefts.
Of the 355 index crimes, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) handled 297 of the cases, representing a 27.5 percent index change. The 297 crimes consisted of one murder, four rapes, four robberies, 69 aggravated assaults, 91 burglaries, 109 larcenies, and 19 auto thefts. The JCSO's clearance rate was 47.5 percent.
The Monticello Police Department (MPD), meanwhile, handled 56 of the 355 index crimes, representing a minus 15.2 percent index change. The 56 crimes consisted of one murder, one robbery, five aggravated assaults, 29 burglaries, 19 larcenies and one auto theft. The MPD's clearance rate was 32.1 percent.
The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), for its part, handled two of the 355 index crimes, one a larceny and the other an auto theft, receiving a 50-percent clearance rate.
Noteworthy, Florida's overall clearance rate was 25.3 percent, up from 23.4 percent, which puts the clearance rates of the local law-enforcement agencies noticeably higher.
The clearance rate is the percentage of cases solved and resulting in arrests.
All told, 404 individuals were arrested in Jefferson County in 2018, versus 460 in 2017. Of the 404 arrestees, 380 were adults and 24 were juveniles.
The greatest number of arrests, 118, were for miscellaneous crimes. The second highest number of arrests, 105, were for drug use. Followed by burglary, 35; aggravated assault, 34; simple assault, 33; larceny, 20; DUI, 17; weapons violations, 12; motor vehicle theft, seven; destruction/vandalism and non-forcible sex offenses, each four; robbery and fraud, each three; liquor law violations, two; and murder, rape, manslaughter, bribery, counterfeit/forgery, intimidation, stolen property and liquor law violations, each one.
The JCSO accounted for 253 of the 404 arrests, the MPD for 72, the FHP for 58, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for 18, and the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) inspector general at Jefferson Correctional Institution accounted for three.
Sheriff Mac McNeill conceded the statistical increase, at the same time underscoring the roller coaster nature of crime, which can rise or fall annually irrespective of law-enforcement's best efforts. One thing he could say, however, was that his department reported crimes to the FDLE with 100 percent accuracy, he said.
“I'm not trying to hide behind the statistics,” McNeill said. “They are what they are. When you claim the good, you also have to claim the bad. It's the roller coaster that you have to ride.”
The focus, however, should be on the data, he indicated, as it's the nature of statistics that they can sometimes be misinterpreted or be misleading, especially in small rural counties with relatively low crime rates.
Take for example robberies, which increased in Jefferson County from three to five in 2017 and 2018, respectively, representing a 67 percent increase. Now consider Miami-Dade at somewhat the other extreme, which had 3,653 robberies in 2018, compared with 4,032 in 2017, roughly a 12-percent decrease.
Put another way, Miami-Dade, with a total of 100,541 index crimes in 2018, compared with 107,172 in 2017, showed a 7.4 percent decrease in crime statistically, as opposed to Jefferson County's increase of 17.4 percent. But which ultimately is the safer community?
The FDLE crime index shows that the chances of a citizen in Jefferson County suffering one of the major index crime is 2,409.6 for every 100,000 residents, versus 3,617.5 per 100,000 in Miami-Dade.
The important thing, McNeill says, is that the department uses the data to allocate resources where problems exist. If the department notices burglaries or some other crime occurring in a particular sector, it will use the data to map the crime area and put the resources there. It's something that small communities can do effectively, he says.
As for the 47.5 percent clearance rate, it speaks for itself and the good job that the deputies are doing, McNeill says.