Continuing a streak started in the depth of the Great Recession in 2009, Flagler County’s crime rate fell sharply in the first six months of 2018, led by a drop in every violent crime category and in all but one non-violent crime category: auto thefts, which increased by one, to 45, compared to the same period last year.
The numbers reflect a statewide trend, with crime volume dropping 8 percent across Florida in the first six months of the year, and 7 percent in Flagler (from 940 total crimes to 875). See the full numbers in the historical chart below.
In contrast, arrests are up a staggering 27 percent countywide in the first six months of the year, including a 20 percent increase in arrests for assault and a 35 percent increase in drug arrests. The steep increase in arrests is reflected in the jail population, which peaked at 256 earlier this year before falling in the past months, down to 175 as of Wednesday evening.
Crime is down “because they’re in jail and not committing crime and preying on the community,” Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said of criminals. “Anybody can dispute anything, but I think our numbers have proof.” While he sees a correlation between jail population and crime, Staly said it’s a lot more than that: his agency added 15 road deputies between Palm Coast and the county, seven school deputies plus a deputy dedicated to pursuing domestic violence cases, for a total of 23 additional deputies. “Clearly that has an impact too, because we’re getting closer to the staffing we should have for a community our size, we’re still not where we should be,” he said.
He also cites a “a combination of intelligence led policing, including the involvement of the community through social media, a motivated workforce, being tough on crime,” and weekly crime-maps meetings that lay out strategy of who and what to focus on, keeping in mind that the majority of crimes are committed by a minority of offenders. “All of that has come together.”
According to figures released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there were two murders, 11 reported rapes and five reported robberies in the first six months of the year, all down considerably in comparison with the first six months of 2017, by which time there’d been almost double the number of reported rapes and three times the number of robberies. Aggravated assaults declined less steeply, from 101 to 92.
All the figures are based on reported crime, not actual crime, keeping in mind that a large number of incidents are never reported. But that’s the case every year, so comparisons hold.
Larcenies continue to be the most frequent crime in Flagler, with 610 reported in the first six months, down three from last year. There were 110 burglaries, down from 143.
The figures reflect crime in all Flagler jurisdictions. Bunnell and Flagler Beach have their own police departments. The Flagler County Sheriffs’s Office provides policing in unincorporated Flagler and in Palm Coast, hub of most crime. The Sheriff’s Office’s jurisdiction accounts for 78 percent of all crimes reported in the county. (See the sheriff’s numbers as reported to FDLE here.)
Even though Bunnell’s population of 3,000 is significantly lower than Flagler Beach’s 5,000, Bunnell is second in frequency of crime, with 90, a quarter of which were violent crimes. Flagler Beach is third, with 48 in the first six months of the year, and with just three violent crimes (all aggravated assaults). The rest were mostly larcenies.
While the gross number of crimes rose in 2015 and 206, the crime rate continued to decline as the county’s population continued to increase. Figures for the beginning of 2018 show steep declines even as the county’s population has continued to grow. Crime rates are based on population figures provided by FDLE. It does not provide figures for the first six months of 2018. But as of today, the Census Bureau places Flagler’s estimated population at over 110,000, or 5,000 more than the figure FDLE relied on for its 2017 crime rate. That means the actual crime rate may be even lower than that reported by the state agency.
“We hope it holds as we finish the year,” Staly said, with some caveats about the numbers: he expects to see domestic violence incidents to still show an increase this year, though it was flat in the first six months of the year, with 302 reported domestic violence offenses (compared to 299 last year). “We are trending still up on domestic violence cases and arrests,” he said, “we are trending down on stalking cases because I think we have a better system in law enforcement to prevent the stalking cases, and we are significantly up in arrests for violation of injunction.” This year the Sheriff followed up a domestic violence initiative by finding money for a dedicated detective and domestic violence analyst.
Another caveat: he considers the juvenile justice system “broken.”
“I’m just hoping that doesn’t trend to a future crime wave, when we can arrest these juveniles for burglaries and car thefts over and over and over, and there’s no real consequence,” the sheriff said. There were 46 juvenile arrests in the first six months of the year in the county, up from 44–and just one in Bunnell.
Statewide, The index crimes of robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft were down while murder and rape increased slightly. Domestic violence crimes were also down statewide. The state is at a 50-year low in crime rates. The semi-annual crime report calculates crime volume, the number of index crimes known to law enforcement. The report, including county-by-county breakdowns, can be found on FDLE’s website.
Flagler County Crime and Crime Rates, 2000-2018
|Year (Sheriff)||Pop.*||Total Crime Index||Index % Change|
from Previous Year
Note: The crime figures listed in the table represent the incidence of reported crime in the entire county, including Bunnell and Flagler Beach, not just crime reported to or by the Flagler County Sheriff's Office. Note, too, that reported crime is always lower than actual crime levels, as all crimes are not reported.
(*)The population figure is based on the total provided by FDLE, which differs from that of the U.S. Census Bureau. The latter places the county's total population at 105,392.