Tampa Bay area counties – including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Polk, Manatee and Sarasota - all saw decreases in total crime between 3.3 and 14.2 percent, according to the 2017 Uniform Crime Report, which was released Tuesday.
(Scroll to the bottom for county-specific numbers).
Statewide, 2017 saw a six percent drop in overall crime per 100,000 people compared to 2016. The report notes that the 2016 statistics had an unusually higher murder rate as a result of the Pulse night club shooting.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott joined Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams and Mayor Lenny Curry at the sheriff’s office to announce the numbers and release the state’s newest crime statistics report.
Williams admitted the Duval numbers could be better, but said after recently hiring almost 200 new officers, he believes the county is moving in the right direction.
“The state numbers show us where we should be and that’s our goal, to be moving in the direction and trending — you know again, while we have some momentum here, our numbers don’t reflect the state numbers,” he said.
Scott said that he was proud of the downward trend and gave much of the credit to beefing up law enforcement, but also said he was “absolutely” worried cuts to prison mental health and substance abuse programs could erode some of the gains made in crime reduction, which as of last year was at a 47-year low he said.
“The reason why I asked for the money is, if you look through those programs, they worked. We’ve made significant investments in reentry programs in the state and it’s worked. If you look at the recidivism rate — the number of people in our prison system — it’s gone down and you can look at the crime rate,” he said.
Florida’s legislature passed a budget last year that was $28 million short as compared to what the Florida Department of Corrections said it needed to cover total costs, reported the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau. Now, to close the gap, the prison system is eliminating programs that help prepare inmates for their return to the community.
Scott laid the blame on lawmakers for the accounting problem, saying he had proposed fully funding those reentry and substance abuse programs.
“Part of it is what the sheriff is doing and part of it is what sheriffs around and police chiefs are doing around the state and part of [it] is what [the Florida Department of Law Enforcement], all of it. But also, what’s [the Department of Juvenile Justice] doing? What’s corrections doing? The legislature has to fund those programs,” he said.
Leon County, which includes the capital Tallahassee, saw a 15 percent drop in its crime rate, but is still at the top of Florida’s 67 counties.