He lost the election to Jim Manfre in November, but former sheriff Don Fleming left Flagler’s crime rate in better shape than he found it–or rather, almost where he’d found it–when he took over after Manfre’s first stint as sheriff eight years ago: In 2012, the rate fell to its lowest level in the 12 years of data available of the FBI’s Unified Crime Reports. Last year’s numbers, released this afternoon, show Flagler’s overall crime rate at 2,263 per 100,000, an 8 percent decline from the previous year.
But it’s just as true that Fleming’s tenure saw crime increasing in four of his eight years, to a high of 2,909 per 100,000 in 2007, at the height of the housing boom. During Manfre’s first tenure, from 2001 to 2004, crime fell in three of his four years, ending at 2,335 per 100,000 in his last year, just 3 percent higher than Fleming’s rate in his last year.
Either way, the crime rate may have much less to do with individual sheriffs’ strategies and more to do with state and national trends: Overall crime has been on a steady decline since the second half of the 1990s. Florida’s crime rate in 2012 was the lowest in 42 years.
But in Florida, murders were up over 2011, with 1,009 murders recorded (up from 985), and forcible sex offenses were up almost 3 percent (10,141 cases). The overall violent crime rate in the state was down 4.3 percent, driven down by declines in robberies and aggravated assaults. The violent crime rate is less than half where it stood in 1989.
What he described as a “dramatic” drop in crime in Flagler, especially in certain categories, gave Manfre pause. “I am skeptical of the numbers,” the sheriff said in an interview Thursday evening. “I’m just not sure if this is a reflection of the crime or if people got frustrated and stopped reporting crime.” Manfre said that the more “pro-active” policing he instituted at the beginning of his tenure, with a focus on community-oriented policing, actually drive crime reporting up for the first three months, then down the fourth.
“When you are proactive, the public becomes more confident in reporting complaints, so the crime rate is not always a reflection of what’s going on year to year, you have to look at it over several years,” Manfre said.
The Flagler crime figures reflect numbers submitted by all police agencies with jurisdiction in the county: the sheriff’s office, the Flagler Beach Police Department, the Bunnell Police Department, the state Division of Environmental Protection’s law enforcement arm, the Florida Highway Patrol’s Flagler arm, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which also has a law enforcement component. But the county’s three main police agencies aside, other police agencies’ numbers were low, with the game commission and FHP combining for a total of 171 arrests out of a total of 3,116 arrests.
The sheriff’s office conducted the most arrests: 2,262. The Bunnell Police Department had, stunningly, 511 arrests, or 16 percent of the total, even though its jurisdiction controls a population that represents just 3 percent of the county. Bunnell has an arrest rate of 19,032 per 100,000 population, compared with Flagler Beach’s rate of 3,700, and the county’s overall rate of 2,512.
In Flagler, crime declined in every major category but one: robberies were up by one over last year, to 38. Keep in mind: those are reported crimes. In many instances, from robberies to sex assaults to larcenies, people do not report the crimes. But the reported numbers do reflect an overall trend.
Violent crime was significantly down in Flagler, with rapes declining from 19 to 8 and aggravated assaults declining 17 percent (from 254 to 210). One murder was reported in 2010: that’s Paul Miller’s killing of Dana Mulhall in Flagler Beach last spring, when the two next-door-neighbors argued over Miller’s barking dogs. Miller goes on trial on a second-degree murder charge Monday.
Burglaries and larcenies have been a persistent problem in Flagler County, swelling crime numbers every year. Larcenies were again the leading crime last year, with 1,433 reported (almost four a day), a very small decline from the 1,485 reported the previous year. Motor vehicle thefts declined by one, to 74. Burglaries declined by 14 percent, from 505 to 436.
About a quarter of the overall crime figures are the result of domestic issues. In 2012, of the 2,200 crimes reported, 551 were domestic matters, including 106 aggravated assaults. That number typically doubles domestic assaults overall, skewing the picture of that violent crime. There were also 400 “simple assaults” in domestic cases. Two rapes, eight cases of forcible fondling, 31 cases of threats or intimidation and three cases of stalking or aggravated stalking were also recorded.
While overall domestic crimes have declined in line with crime in general, domestic aggravated assaults have not. To the contrary. Those have risen dramatically, especially in the last two years, with 122 in 2011 and 106 in 2012, well above the annual average of 68 over the previous 10 years.
Flagler County Crime and Crime Rates, 2000-2019
|Year (Sheriff)||Pop.*||Total Crime Index||Index % |
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.