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Crime Down 20% in Two Years, Jail Population Isn’t: Sheriff Strains to Explain Paradox

| April 23, 2015

flagler county jail jim manfre

Sheriff Jim Manfre explained the panopticon design of the new county jail, opening in January, at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Grand Haven Thursday morning. (© FlaglerLive)

It’s an odd paradox. Crime is down in Flagler County, and significantly so: it’s gone down 20 percent in 2013 and 2014, and another 6 percent in the first quarter of the year, according to Sheriff Jim Manfre, who addressed a breakfast group convened by the Flagler Chamber of Commerce this morning in Grand Haven. Relatively new diversionary programs are also working, keeping some minor offenders out of jail when they can’t afford bail, or diverting others to mental health programs.

Yet jail bookings are not down, and the 130-bed county jail, whose average daily population is closer to 160, by year’s end will be replaced with a 400-bed jail. Many of those additional beds are not expected to remain empty, though Manfre says it won’t be his intention to fill them. But the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office will be needing additional corrections deputies. The sheriff says he hasn’t yet worked out the numbers.

“We’re going through our budget right now,” he said in an interview after his presentation. “It’s really a matter of do we need more people in the front end, not the back end. Because of the way the new jail is set up, it should be pretty much neutral as far as what we need, but again we haven’t increased our manpower in five years.” He stressed: “That would occur whether we built a new jail or not.”

So what explains the significantly lower crime rate—and lower crime tallies overall—and the need for more manpower? “It’s a paradox, but the fact is the stats are the stats: we have more people coming through the facility, but the crimes are decreasing,” Manfre said.

With additional manpower will come additional costs. The $20 million jail being built right now, adjacent to the older jail—which was built in 1992—will have 270 new cells. The existing jail’s 130 beds will be converted into a female-only block, finally enabling the separation of serious and minor offenders. Construction costs are covered by revenue from the county’s sales tax supplement. That revenue may not be used to run the jail. Those costs must come out of general revenue, which is driven by property taxes. The current sheriff’s budget does not have room for additional manpower. It’ll have to increase when the sheriff makes his request for additional deputies later this spring. That means tax revenue will almost certainly have to increase to cover the additional cost. That cost factor was not part of the discussions two years ago, during the planning stages for the new jail.

Flagler is about to nearly triple the size of its jail even as crime continues to fall steeply.

(The new budget year begins in September. Construction of the new jail should be almost complete by then, but the move-in date is not until around January. The sheriff will be moving into the department’s new operations center in Downtown Bunnell by early September, however.)

“Right now the expansion of the jail will not require additional manpower,” Manfre said. “The simple reason is that it’s more efficient than what we have now.” The jail design is such that the octagon-shaped cell block will enable better control mechanism without requiring more deputies. The visitation area, such as it is today, will be eliminated and replaced by video-linked visits only, which will reduce the need for some manpower. The new booking area will also be more efficient.

“The issue is not increasing detention deputies because of the expansion. I don’t see that at all,” Manfre said. “We’ve gone through the numbers, we’re pretty certain we can keep that. The problem is our prison population is increasing. We haven’t increased the amount of detention deputies in five years. So we need to increase detention deputies just because we have more prisoners. We haven’t determined how many new detention deputies we’re going to need. But right now the prison population is increasing just because the population has gone up by 6,000 people.”

Yet the average prison population, the sheriff also acknowledged, has hovered around 160 for the past four years or so, even as the county’s population has increased by several thousands, past the 100,000 mark—and crime has fallen.

“We’re arresting people quicker before they commit more crimes. It’s a small group of people who commit the preponderance of the crimes,” the sheriff said.

Click On:

Manfre’s 40-minute presentation to the chamber’s Breakfast and Issues audience of about 40 people provided an overview of what the new jail and the new operations center will look like when finished. The operations center, he said, will finally give the Sheriff’s Office an autonomous Crime Scene Investigation area. The 12-member detective bureau will have 16 work stations, providing room for growth. The evidence room will abandon its 19th century look and move into space five or six times larger, with refrigeration capability for some of the evidence, what Manfre termed “a great leap forward” (surely without meaning to make a connection to Mao’s massive modernization campaign of the same name, which proved deadly.)

Another key improvement in the new operations center and the way it interacts with local agencies will enable the office to treat domestic violence victims with more privacy and care, ensuring more willingness among victims to then cooperate and testify in the subsequent cases. That’s being enabled with cooperation from the Family Life Center, the county’s domestic violence shelter, and a dedicated room, with a separate entrance for sexual assault victims, at Florida Hospital Flagler. (The Florida Hospital Foundation authorized funding for that facility.)

Manfre focused especially on the lower crime rate. “Especially for attracting businesses, this is something that we really need to promote,” Manfre said. “Flagler County is one of the safest counties in the state of Florida. It’s not because Jim Manfre is telling you that, the statistics show that.”

The average crime per 100,000 in the United States is 367, in Florida it’s 476. In Flagler County, it’s 294.

“One crime is too many,” he said, “but my point is we’re living in a very safe place. I’m not telling crime don’t go on, and the media reports it, as they should, but people tend to see some things that happen and think that it’s out of control. Actually our crime has gone down over 20 percent in my first two years, and in this first quarter it went down another 6 percent. So we live in a safe community. We should broadcast that when we’re trying to attract people to our community.”

It was a quiet audience: the only question the sheriff got from the floor, other than a reporter’s question, was about the future of the Palm Coast Precinct, at City Market Place. Last week, Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon spoke unflatteringly the new owner of City Marketplace, Palm Beach Gardens-based-John C. Bills Properties, which he said has driven out a lot of tenants with higher costs and heavy-handed measures. Manfre was no more flattering: the Sheriff’s Office, he said, is still in litigation with the property owner, refusing to pay those additional costs, which jumped 212 percent.

“I’d like to stay there, but I’m not going to be held up by some South Florida developer,” Manfre said this morning. “So he’s either going to agree and be reasonable, or we’ll find another place to go.”

Construction on the new jail, to the right, and the jail built in 1992 to the left. Click on the image for larger view. (FCSO)

Construction on the new jail, to the right, and the jail built in 1992 to the left. Click on the image for larger view. (FCSO)

Ongoing construction at the future Operations Center of the sheriff's office. Click on the image for larger view.

Ongoing construction at the future Operations Center of the sheriff’s office. Click on the image for larger view.

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35 Responses for “Crime Down 20% in Two Years, Jail Population Isn’t: Sheriff Strains to Explain Paradox”

  1. No Way Jose says:

    Crime rate down ? WTF………Just two hours ago I was driving over near Walmart and saw 3 black youths running across the traffic with merchandise in their hands…But NO Walmart bag. Gee, I guess Walmart is cutting back on plastic bags this week. NOT !!!!

  2. Heading North says:

    The crime rate is based on ONLY the statistics that the sheriff reports– how many crimes occur that he doesn’t bother mentioning or adding to the stats??

    • NortonSmitty says:

      The crime rate is based on the number of crimes reported as compared to the population. I can’t find on any of the Googled sites if it is based on crimes reported, arrests made or convictions. But one thing is sure, the media and politicians will exploit it to keep you afraid and pissed off. My favorite local example was a few years ago, all we saw for days on the TV news and papers was that Orlando had set a new murder record. 54 murders that year, topping the old record of 53 set way back in 1973! What nobody told you was that in 1973, Orlando had a population of just over 200,000 people. Today the population is over 2,000,000, or two million. So did they tell you that Orlando is ten times safer that year? Hell no. Because that wouldn’t sell papers. Or build jails.

      • Ray Thorne says:

        Your math is a little fuzzy…look up what is considered the Orlando area and you are close with today’s figures but in 1973 youre a little off the mark as there were closer to 700,000 people in the Orlando area.

  3. retired says:

    He said we still have crimes being committed but they are down.

  4. NortonSmitty says:

    “If you Build it, They Will Come!” This is Law Enforcements dirty little secret. “We must build more jails to protect our citizens and our property values.” And yet, when we increase our jails to 400 beds, there is no way our crime rate in Flagler will not double. That is by design and the way Jails are built and funded. I won’t get into why, but during the Reagan Administration it was decided that Federal funds that were returned to the Counties Administrator as Community Development Block Grants for building Parks, libraries and such was instead diverted to the County Sheriffs to build jails, add Police and buy weapons. This set off a building spree that allowed a lot of Sheriffs like Broward County’s Nick Navarro to retire early to his private island in the Bahamas.
    How the sca.. I mean funding works is the Federal Government will pay the County Sheriff up to $265 per day to house citizens who are jailed awaiting trial, and then underwrite the bonds to build the cells. So, once the County is on the hook for the bonds, they HAVE TO KEEP THE JAILS FULL TO PAY FOR THEM! This is why after Navarro’s Broward Building Spree, somehow Broward County was ranked as having the third highest crime rate in America, while Miami was 367th if I recall. Having lived in both, it explained to me why you would be arrested and held under a $5,000 bond for having an open beer on the beach in Broward, but if you didn’t kill someone in Miami-Dade County with it’s 300 holding cells for twice the population, you would be released on your own recognizance. And anybody with half a brain knows when it comes to crime, Ft. Lauderdale couldn’t hold a candle to Miami. But what do you think that #3 ranking did to Browards property values? Here’s what: The same thing more than doubling the jail cells here are going to do to ours.

  5. retired says:

    To me what it will mean is that some of our repeat offenders that you people bitch about being on the streets (rightfully so) will now be spending sometime in jail because there’s now room for them.

  6. Freddy says:

    You have all read where criminals are released due to jail overcrowding. What would you rather have criminals in or out so they can be repeat offenders?

  7. NortonSmitty says:

    It has been my observation that about one third of the people in jail should never have been arrested in the first place, one third should get 30, 60 or 90 days, but will get three to five years in prison instead because the Federal Government does not pay the State or County to jail people for misdemeanors and one third should never under any circumstances be allowed to leave a prison cell the rest of their lives.

  8. a tiny manatee says:

    Why would they be repeat offenders? Are you implying that our jail system incarcerates but doesn’t rehabilitate?

    Hint: it doesn’t rehabilitate.

    Also, it’s pretty easy to lower crime stats when you change how crimes are reported.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      And it’s even easier to manipulate the crime statistics so that things that were never considered serious crimes in the past are felonies now. Like driving home after a few beers, arguing with your wife, missing child support payments or driving without a license. All of these are felonies today that never were before. Yet still, the crime rate is the lowest today in the history of the country, even with these contrived felony charges. In the 1930’s at the behest of J. Edgar Hoover, the states were forced to add a new felony called Grand Theft, allegedly to combat the rash of Bank robberies. It meant that if you stole over $1,000, you could be convicted of a felony, a serious charge, as compared to Petty Theft, which everyone knew we always had and always will. That Grand Theft charge is where we got the slang for $1,000 being called “a Grand” by the way. Adjusted for inflation, the line to cross for a felony should mean you have to steal about $15,000 today to earn your stripes. Instead, Florida has actually lowered the threshold to $300. So we have felons today who can’t vote, get jobs or a Beauticians License for missing a couple payments to Aarons on that big screen they bought when they both was working. Is this a great country or what?

      • a tiny manatee says:

        Add in privatized prisons and you have a country that makes it an industry of putting as many people in jail as they can as many times as they can.

      • anonymous says:

        Basic DUI (No bodily injury, first offense, no property damage)- Misdemeanor, Simple Domestic Battery (no weapon used, no permanent physical injury caused, victim not pregnant)- Misdemeanor, Driving w/o a license- Misdemeanor……….Not sure where your facts are coming from, but they aren’t quite accurate.

      • Footballen says:

        Uhhhhh, DUI is a misdemeanor (in most cases) unless you hurt someone bad. Arguing with anyone is not against the law at all. There would have to be evidence of something more significant. Missing child support is a civil writ issued by a judge on individual basis. Driving without a license is a misdemeanor (in most cases) unless you are a habitual offender in which case it becomes classified as the lowest level felony. This is the case now as it has been for the past 20 years of my career. You are correct in the $300.00 threshold for a theft becoming a felony. There are other factors which delete the need for a dollar value such as stealing a gun, a vehicle or even a fire extinguisher. Ridiculous right? Everyone has the desire to snag a fire extinguisher here and there. Why should that be a problem? Your line of thinking is very interesting.

  9. Heil Greenbacks says:

    Now I know why EVER arrest here in Palm Coast is a FELONY. This little county does NOT get paid from the government for misdemeanors ……..Oh, you sir are under arrest for feeding birds in the Town Center without a license….3rd degree FELONY……3-5 years in prison. Flagler County gets $265.00 a day while they do their 3 months in county lockup before being shipped off to the RIPE OFF state prison system……Florida is damn near the WORST state for doing this to its (“criminals”) citizens !!!!!

  10. Enlightened says:

    The stats are based on arrests made. Not by reports written. Want to know more, go to the FDLE website for our county’s numbers.

    • Ray Thorne says:

      How is that so? An arrest isn’t made on every Burglary, Theft etc….. The stats ARE based on reports written. What I wonder is when you turn a “Burglary to a vehicle” report header into a “Carbreak” report header, is if that report still counts toward the UCR to be included in those stats as it is a Burglary and if something is taken, it is also a Theft. To simply make it a “Carbreak” those two key words are left out.

  11. Nancy N says:

    A lot of those people are probably locked up on things like failure to pay child support or traffic tickets, which aren’t a “crime” for reporting purposes and explains the discrepancy. Debtor’s prisons are alive and well in this country.

  12. Nancy N says:

    Also, same thing for probation violations…if it’s a technical violation (not the commission of a new crime), the person is being re-incarcerated for a previous crime so there is a jail booking without a corresponding “crime” for crime statistics to count.

  13. Ray Thorne says:

    “It’s a paradox, but the fact is the stats are the stats: we have more people coming through the facility, but the crimes are decreasing,” Manfre said.

    How is this statement even possible…and furthermore how are people even buying this nonsense. More people going to jail means more crimes are being committed plain and simple. A new larger facility underway because the jail as it stands now cant handle the influx but crime is down because stats are stats. Come on really?

  14. Flagler Citizen says:

    It seems to me that more people in jail plus a lower crime rate means that more criminals are staying behind bars and thus are unable to commit more crimes. It also seems to me that this is a good thing.

  15. Anonymous says:

    “Stats don’t lie, but liars use stats.”- Author Unknown.

    Maybe I can clear up a few thing. Building a new jail is good. Our current one is dated and overcrowded. Both of those are conditions that can lead to effective and costly lawsuits. California and Alabama are states that can attest to that. Building a jail too big will be more cost effective in the long run than building one that is too small and then requires expensive additions.

    Now on to the comments by Sheriff Manfre. It is just silly that he is trying to take credit for lowering the crime rate. First the stats that he quotes are based on Uniform Crime Reports. In other words reported crimes. There are no victimization reports, no control groups to monitor why they are coming down, no controls for changes in the reporting system, no audit of his reporting system to make sure crimes are being reported properly, and no studies have been conducted to see why this tredn has happened. He is simply looking at a number and saying “this is because of me.” But if you looked at say the number of homicides in Flagler county in the first 6 months he was in office they increased 5 times from the previous year. Is he responsible for that? Of course not. I am simply pointing out that him claiming credit for a lowering crime rate is no more credible than Piere claiming this website is responisble for a decline in childhood obesity because since it’s creation children in his neighborhood have lost weight.

  16. Jason stryker says:

    I would like to present a secernaio. I have lived county for 22 years. Don Fleming…when he was sheriff each year stated that his administrated reduced crime by huge percentages. We would hear crime was reduced 20% this year then…15% that year and so on. When Manfre and Staly ran for sheriff this last time they stated that Manfre had reduced crime by huge percentages under his first administration. Now crime again is down 20% in the last 2 years and yet as if by magic the jail population is growing. Is it possible my brilliant fellow citizens this sheriff Manfre/Staly and the previous Sheriff Fleming have simply been making up statistics and that they somehow believe that we all will accept their word as truth. Please research what I am saying. FlaglerLive has it all in its archives. I call bull. We all should call bull. This is getting out of control. Simple math…you can’t take 100% and reduce it by the amount that they have advertised and come up with current crime levels in this county.

  17. Ray Thorne says:

    “The visitation area, such as it is today, will be eliminated and replaced by video-linked visits only, which will reduce the need for some manpower. The new booking area will also be more efficient.”

    Hmm……remember when the “post card only” mail was somehow dehumanizing …it brought about a civil rights lawsuit and this guy put on a show blaming the former sheriff? Now he’s making it so that to visit someone in the jail, family members wont get to see them in person anymore.. they’ll do it by way of a video monitor. I guess talking to a television is better than nothing.

    • Nancy N says:

      I am horrified by the plans for the video visitation. Having had that experience with a loved one before, it is TERRIBLE. Family visits, and maintaining family contact, are the best way to create compliant inmates with positive attitudes who will not reoffend. The more things you take away from them, the less they have to lose.

      It should be remembered that most county jail inmates have yet to be convicted of anything – many never will be – and are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Punitive treatment of these inmates is not appropriate.

  18. Jim says:

    This Administration’s Manfre and Staly) motto is… If it doesn’t get put on paper then it didn’t happen…. DEPUTIES I DON’T WANT YOU TAKING REPORTS

    • a tiny manatee says:

      100% true, in the recent interactions I’ve had with police over a bad neighbor the police refused to make a report, instead saying ‘I’ll make a note of it.’

  19. Groot says:

    Crime is under reported here. They will do anything to write it up as an incident and not an actual crime.

  20. My Daily Rant says:

    Wasn’t there just 3 shootings last week,Also lets get the Deputys out from hiding in bushes trying to get people speeding like under Hammock bridge or tennis club and go to crime areas like R section or Bunnell behind old court house. With the new wing at the Jail maybe we wont hear about criminals on the streets committing crimes that have a long list of past felony convictions.PEACE

  21. matt says:

    The sheriff says “One crime is too many,” if there were 0 crimes then he wouldn’t have a job as his position wouldn’t be needed. The entire law enforcement machine is nothing but that a machine that runs on money. Crime is a business and in order for the business to stay open you need customers the more customers you have the bigger the business you need. The new jail will be filled to capacity and then in 20 more years rinse and repeat. It time to end the “drug war” rehabilitate drug addicts stop using the law to strong arm dead parent and stop with the police state and handing out felonies like there candy at Halloween.

  22. Footballen says:

    Ignorance is bliss.

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