Even crime is in recession in Florida and Flagler County.
Despite near-record high unemployment and a wheezing economy, crime was down in every category in Flagler County in 2010, from murder (none recorded in 2010, but one has been recorded so far this year) to rape, robbery and aggravated assault to burglaries and vehicle theft. Only larcenies increased—by one. Larcenies are the most common of the serious crimes in Flagler. There were 1,591 larcenies in 2010 (an average of more than four per day).
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Violent crime—murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault—declined more steeply, from 20 to 25 percent.
“Of course I’m happy with those numbers,” Flagler County Sheriff Don Fleming said. “That means the guys are going out there doing the job they’re supposed to do.”
Overall, Flagler County’s crime rate fell 4.2 percent when compared to 2009, though the crime rate is still higher than it’s been in all but three of the last 10 years. (See the full, 10-year chart below the story.)
The data, referred to as the FBI’s annual unified crime report, are compiled from data voluntarily submitted by 410 of the state’s 415 police agencies.
The trend in Flagler follows Florida’s, where crime fell at the steeper rate of 6.7 percent in 2010, and in the rest of the nation, where crime had fallen 5.5 percent in 2009, the last year for which national numbers are available.
In 2010, violent crime was down 10.1 percent across the state, bringing the crime rate to a 40-year low. “It’s clear that public safety is a Florida priority,” Gerald Bailey, commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said. Bailey released the numbers alongside Gov. Rick Scott in Tallahassee this afternoon.
Murders in Florida dropped by 2.9 percent, rapes decreased 3.3 percent, robberies declined by 15.6 percent, and aggravated assault decreased 8.9 percent. There were also declines in burglaries (-7 percent), larcenies (-4.4 percent), and motor vehicle thefts (-17.5 percent). Domestic violence offenses declined 2.7 percent.
In Flagler County, reported rapes were down 27 percent (though the base numbers are small: there were 16 reported rapes in 2010, compared with 22 in 2009). Robberies were down 25 percent. Aggravated assaults were down 21 percent.
Law enforcement chiefs are crediting cops on the job, including better technology and more efficient use of crime-fighting techniques. In Flagler County, for example, Fleming cites the “crime suppression team” he instituted last year as one reason burglaries have been on the decline. He said burglaries declined 40 percent in the last six months of 2010–after spiking 44 percent in the first half of the year.
The crime-suppression team doesn’t answer calls. It conducts surveillance and follows leads from the department’s crime analyst, focusing on areas experiencing crime sprees.
Policing has been more aggressive, particularly with surveillance techniques, and laws since the early 1980s have again tipped the balance in favor of police and against suspects or defendants, making it easier to arrest and convict individuals. Some 2 million people are in prisons and jails, a higher number—proportionate to the population and as a net number—than in any other country, including China and India (which have populations exceeding 1 billion).
Other reasons are at play as well. Crime rates have been on a downward trend for more than a decade as younger people, who commit most crimes, represent a smaller proportion of the population than they did two decades ago. The median age of the population has gone up by almost four years between 1990 and 2010. Social programs that work with or independent of the judicial system, unemployment insurance and other supportive safety nets, such as the earned income tax credit that benefits poorer workers, have also played a role in lessening crime’s attraction. In Flagler County, the population has either stayed flat or declined since 2008.
Between a static population and a poorer economy, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office budget has also remained static. The sheriff was able to hire five deputies this year with a federal grant, which pays for the first three years but then leaves the county to pick up the tab. The additional deputies have compensated for five other regular positions that have gone vacant, through attrition, and been left unfilled. The sheriff expects to keep the budget level in the coming year as well. “I don’t see the economy getting better in the near future so we’ll continue to work with what we have,” Fleming said.
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.