For the first time in five years, total crime increased in Flagler County in 2015, by 1.7 percent, driven largely by increases in violent crimes, although the crime rate decreased modestly, by 0.7 percent, as population increased.
The trend contrasts with Florida’s, where overall crime fell by 10,773, a 1.6 percent decrease. The state’s crime rate also fell, by 3.1 percent, bringing the state’s crime rate down to a 45-year low even though, as in Flagler, violent crime was up–and more significantly so in the state as a whole: murders were up 5.7 percent, rapes up 6.1 percent and aggravated assaults up 3.9 percent.
In Flagler, there were more murders, rapes, aggravated assaults, burglaries and vehicle thefts in 2015 than in 2014, and fewer larcenies and robberies. Almost a third of the county’s crimes–617 last year–are related to domestic violence. The number was smaller than in 2015, when the county registered 635 such crimes, but still higher than the average since 2008.
Flagler’s numbers are conflicting, enough to be fodder for the campaigns of the numerous candidates running for sheriff as well as by incumbent Sheriff Jim Manfre.
Challengers can claim that crime is rising, even though the rise in context is still minimal, while the total number of crimes remains significantly lower than the peak of 2006 to 2011, when the county experienced an average of 2,500 crimes a year, or nearly 20 percent more crime than it does now, even though the population was a bit smaller.
Still, year-over-year, total sex offenses increased from 26 to 41, including a near-doubling in rapes from 14 to 23, aggravated assaults increased from 204 to 231, and burglaries from 330 to 375.
Manfre can also paint a more favorable picture by pointing to the falling crime rate as opposed to the crime index, even though the fall in the rate is driven by a combination of the increase in the population by about 2,000 people, and by a 5 percent drop in larcenies (despite incessant reports of car break-ins throughout the year), though crimes that worry people most have increased.
“This is the lowest crime rate we have had in 16 years, going back as far as 2000,” Manfre was quoted as saying in the release. “This is impressive when you consider we had almost half the population we have today.”
The sheriff’s release on the crime report also highlights crime numbers only in Palm Coast and unincorporated Flagler County, where the sheriff has jurisdiction, which also helps keep a slight damper on the net number of crimes, especially when Bunnell’s numbers are excluded. In Bunnell, astoundingly, the arrest rate was close to 1 in 10 people in 2015. There were 282 arrests in a population of 2875, with arrests disproportionately targeting blacks.
Flagler Beach, in contrast, saw a 26.8 percent decrease in crime and the lowest arrest rate in the county.
Flagler County had experienced no murders in 2014. It experienced two in 2015, in quick succession: that of John Pehota, allegedly by his wife Anna, in the Hammock, on Sept. 23. She goes on trial next month. And that of John Stubbs of Bunnell, on Nov. 27, outside his house. Stubbs’s murder remains unsolved.
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.