A spike in burglaries and larcenies sent Flagler County’s overall crime rate up 2.4 percent in the first six months of 2015, in contrast with crime in Florida as a whole, where it has fallen 2.2 percent. If the trend holds for the rest of the year, it will be the first time that overall local crime will have increased in the county since 2009. But violent crime is down significantly. (See the full chart below.)
The increase was led by a 15 percent increase in burglaries (191 reported burglaries in the first six months of the year, compared to 166 in the same period last year) and a 2.6 percent increase in larcenies (from 621 to 637). On the other hand, aggravated assault fell 8 percent (from 100 reported assaults to 92 in the first six months), and robberies fell from 16 to 9, a decrease of 44 percent. There were no murders in the first six months of the year (the first recorded murder since 2013 took place in late September, when Anna Pehota shot and killed her husband in the Hammock, and almost immediately confessed to the killing.) But there was an increase in rapes, from nine reported rapes to 11.
Arrest data–a separate indicator of crime–shows a decline in assault arrests from 174 to 166 in the first six months of the year, but a spike in drug arrests, from 178 to 215, a 21 percent increase, with a disproportionate number of those arrests affecting individuals caught with small amounts of marijuana. There were also five arrests for embezzlement, seven for fraud, nine for forgery and six for intimidation. There were no arrests for abductions, arson or bribery. (See the breakdown here.)
Because of the way the Florida Department of Law Enforcement tallies its Unified Crime Report–a standard tally across the country–every crime regardless of its nature goes into the crime index column, so one type of crime may disproportionately affect the overall picture of crime, whether the index goes up or down. So while overall violent crime in Flagler County is down 10.4 percent, non-violent crime went up 4.3 percent. And because the net number of non-violent crimes is about eight times the number of non-violent crimes, the end result is an overall increase in the crime figure.
But the crime report can be read–and used–in a number of ways. Generally, the report is analyzed countywide, especially in smaller counties. But when it issued figures this morning in a news release, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office was able to show an overall decrease in crime by keeping its analysis to Palm Coast and unincorporated Flagler County, excluding Flagler Beach and Bunnell. The sheriff is responsible for policing the unincorporated area and Palm Coast only, at least primarily, though it offers assistance countywide.
Bunnell, which has a population of 2,700, has consistently generated a disproportionate number of arrests, compared to its size. In the first six months of the year, it saw a staggering 45.5 percent increase in its crime index, but that number, too, is skewed: a total of 64 crimes were reported in Bunnell in six months, or about one crime every three days, and only 11 of those were violent (one rape, one robbery, one aggravated assault).
Excluding Bunnell from crime tallies always skews crime figures downward, but somewhat deceptively so, especially since Bunnell reduced its police department last year and has more often called on the sheriff’s office for assistance.
Put another way, the Flagler County Sheriff’s total of 846 reported crime pushed the crime rate within its own jurisdiction down 0.5 percent, with violent crime down over 16 percent in its jurisdiction.
“The majority of the vehicle burglaries were the result of victims forgetting to lock their vehicles or by leaving valuables in plain sight,” the sheriff’s office noted in its release. “In an effort to keep the community informed, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) has generated fourteen news releases advising the general public of crime trends and related arrests. Deputies have also attended neighborhood crime watch meetings and have placed variable message sign boards in several communities in Palm Coast warning residents of crime trends.”
The overall crime-clearance rate in Flagler County is down the first six months, from 31.9 percent last year to 23.6 percent this year. The clearance rate at the sheriff’s office is 23.8 percent, it’s 32.8 percent at the Bunnell Police Department, and 12.1 percent at the Flagler Beach Police Department.
There were a total of 66 crimes reported in Flagler Beach, an increase of 11.9 percent over the same period last year, with just six violent crimes (all of them aggravated assaults) and the rest a mixture of burglaries and larcenies, and just three car thefts. (See Flagler County’s crime numbers broken down by jurisdiction here.)
In Florida, crimes of murder, robbery, burglary, and larceny all fell during the reporting period while forcible sex offenses, aggravated assault and motor vehicle thefts increased. Law enforcement officers made 393,814 arrests from January through June 2015. Statewide, two law enforcement officers have been killed in 2015, one was shot while delivering a subpoena and the other was shot accidentally during training.
Overall, domestic violence rose 1.7 percent. Cohabitants continue to be the largest group of victims of domestic violence related offenses. (See the breakdown here.)
FDLE began tracking crime statistics in 1971.
“There were 7,400 fewer crimes reported in the first six months of 2015 compared to the first six months of 2014,” FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said. “Our law enforcement officers place their lives on the line every day to keep our citizens safe, we share their grief when they lose one of their own, such as Deputy Bill Myers who was shot while serving a domestic violence injunction. We also mourn the loss of the 99 women, children and men that were killed as a result of domestic violence during the initial six months of 2015. I am disheartened at the dramatic increase in domestic violence related crimes reflected in the UCR. We must recommit to partnering with our criminal justice partners to dismantle this crime that permeates our State.”
Flagler County Crime and Crime Rates, 2000-2020
|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.