A pandemic is one way to lower crime: cities are reporting “stunning crime drops” in the weeks since the coronavirus emergency resulted in stay-at-home and other forms of lock-downs, according to Time magazine. In Flagler County, just nine people were booked at the Flagler County jail over the three-day Easter weekend, all but one on misdemeanor or probation violation charges. That compares to 24 bookings over the 2019 Easter weekend, and 31 the Easter before that.
None of that accounts for the 2019 crime figures, which show a 19 percent drop in crime in Flagler County after a 22 percent drop the year before, for a combined drop of 37 percent in the last two of Sheriff Rick Staly’s tenure. The figures include crime rates for Bunnell and Flagler Beach, which don’t fall under the sheriff’s jurisdiction, but where the numbers are comparatively small enough not to substantially affect the overall trend. The sheriff provides policing for Palm Coast, where the majority of the county’s population–and crime–is concentrated.
Much of the crime drop was in non-violent crimes, burglaries and larcenies especially. Vehicle thefts increased 26 percent despite the increasing use of license-plate readers (suggesting that the readers, while effective at tracing down auto thieves, are not yet working as a deterrent).
In contrast with the better numbers overall, the last three years continue to be bedeviled by an unusually high number of murders. There were three in 2019, the same number as there were in 2018, and five in 2017, for a total of 11 in a three-year stretch: that’s the deadliest three-year stretch in recent memory. Almost every one of the 11 murders was the result either of a domestic dispute or of a drug deal gone awry. One murder in 2019 remains unsolved, however, its motive also unclear: the gunning down of Deon O’Neal Jenkins, 26, at the Circle K on Palm Coast Parkway last October. In the past three years, two of the murders took place in Bunnell, one took place in Flagler Beach.
Aggravated assaults fell 21 percent in 2019 countywide, there was one less robbery (from 12 in 2018), but reported rapes increased substantially, from 29 to 38. Typically, reported rapes under-count the actual number of rapes in any community, as victims are reluctant to step forward, and many rapes take place between spouses or partners.
Between county, municipal and state badges, seven police agencies operate in Flagler County, among them the Florida Highway Patrol and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The sheriff accounted for the overwhelming majority of arrests last year–2,543 out of a a total of 3,159 adult arrests. Bunnell recorded 146 arrests, Flagler Beach 147. Your chances of getting arrested in Bunnell remain almost twice as high as in the rest of the county.
There were 612 drug arrests in Flagler in 2019, up from 572 the year before, 58 of them in Flagler Beach. There was not a single arrest for prostitution either in the cities or the county. The county recorded 182 drunk driving arrests, down from 232 the year before, and 30 weapons violations, up from 20 the year before.
Crime rates have been falling across the nation and in Florida, though not as steeply. The crime rate in Florida fell 6.3 percent in 2019, the violent crime rate almost a third of what it was at its peak, in the late 1980s and 1990s. Total crime has been falling steadily since. Correlations have been difficult and controversial, though the consensus is that an aging population pushes crime rates down–not just in the United States. Flagler County in the past 10 years has seen its own population age substantially: residents 65 and older were just 24 percent of Flagler’s population 10 years ago. Today, according to the latest Census figures, they account for nearly 31 percent of the population. Those 18 and younger formed the group that lost most population proportionately.
“We have implemented many new programs and initiatives since I became Sheriff three years ago and between our team putting those programs into practice, utilizing intelligence led policing, and leveraging the technology available at their fingertips, we are seeing great results,” Staly was quoted as saying in a release his agency issued in mid-March, when the department’s 2019 crime figures were filed. (The figures are sent to state and federal authorities for inclusion in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports).
“We routinely check on probationers – both adult and juvenile,” Staly went on, “we have dedicated teams with a sole focus on problem areas and problem crimes and tackle them week in and week out; we have an expanded traffic unit that is present on high-crash roadways and conducts numerous driver safety
campaigns throughout the year; we offer the S.T.R.I.D.E. program in our jails to help get inmates on the right track upon release; and we have the S.W.E.A.T. program that takes potentially troubled youth and shows them the path they are headed down if they don’t turn their lives around. We are not a
complacent agency; we are an agency with innovative, forward thinkers and proactive enforcement and crime reduction.”
Calls for service are not diminishing alongside the crime rate. To the contrary: after falling to 111,400 in 2017, calls for service rose to 125,500 in 2018, and to 130,000 last year.
For Staly, who is campaigning for re-election, the falling crime figures add to his momentum, making it more unlikely that he would face serious opposition. So far just one candidate, Democrat Larry Jones, the former sheriff’s sergeant, has filed to run against him, as he did in 2016. Staly defeated Jones easily then, even without his current record. Staly has raised over $80,000 for his re-election campaign, compared to Jones’s $1,500.
The sheriff has turned favorable crime numbers into a glossy annual report and video that are not much different from from campaign materials–or from similar materials other elected officials tend to produce on their own behalf, especially in an election year.
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.
Michael O says
Well done! The evidence is in, and statistics do not lie: we have an excellent sheriff’s department
and leadership team under Sheriff Staly that are doing an outstanding job protecting our citizens and our property.
Flagler County has truly embraced the sheriff, his people and impactful programs such as the Police Athletic League and more,
which is making a significant and positive difference in our community.
Politics as usual says
If your smart you can easily see these numbers are manipulated by Staley. The only ones he can’t fudge, murders, rapes, and car thefts show the real numbers. The rest is a game of definitions. FlaglerLive knows this but gives this sheriff a pass. Oh well, politics as usual. At least Staley won’t be asking for more deputies or money. Haha YES he will!
Yup. Even the thieves are to scared to leave their homes
Reinhold Schlieper says
Correlation with a sheriff is probably misleading. Crimes during this epidemic are down everywhere. I suspect that Sheriff Staly cannot take credit for it all.
As the story notes, while crime seems down everywhere because of the pandemic, the pre-pandemic 2019 crime figures are the focus.
Lance Carroll says
Violent crimes numbers have increased? Yes or no?
Nice job FCSO and its Leader. Well done. I still have a problem with some of your Political Affiliations. Its not personal. Reconsidering my Vote of NO for you next Election
Mike Cocchiola says
Look, folks. It’s not Staley. Crime has been dropping all over the country. That happens naturally in a full-employment economy.
Watch, crime rates will go up due to the COVID-19 crisis where 16 million people are out of work and many are out of money.
Tell you what. I won’t blame Staley for crime increases due to COVID-19 if you don’t credit Staley for crime decreases due solely to the economy.
James Manfre says
Let me state that I am not a candidate for the office of sheriff in 2020 and I do not intend to endorse any candidate. I realize with Staly’s money and a large advantage in Republican registered voters in Flagler County he is likely to win reelection. Before the coronation, his record for the past three years should be reviewed.
1. Although over all crime is down much of it is from the Cities of Bunnell and Flagler Beach. Over the past three years , crime has fallen more dramatically in Volusia and St,. John’s County than in Flagler. Murder has increased by more than 100 % in his first three years compared to the previous four years and rapes have skyrocketed.
2. He has increased his budget by thirty three per cent in three years and increased the Inmate Facility population by fifty per cent with all of the accompanying costs of housing, feeding and health costs. In the previous four years, the budget increased by twenty per cent over four years and the Inmate Facility population decreased by twenty percent. The population increased by approximately the same rate in this comparison.
3. Three of the top brass he brought in from the outside have left including his friend who he appointed as undersheriff and the Director of the Inmate Facility who he appointed resigned.
4. Six sheriff office employees have been arrested in three years for various offenses. There were no arrests of any employees in the previous four years.
5. There was a death of an inmate while in the care and custody of the sheriff’s office last year.
6. The administrative judge of the Circuit was forced to investigate allegations of racial and sexual incidents in the courthouse by sheriff’s personnel. The supervisor of the sheriff’s courthouse resigned and other courthouse deputies were reassigned.
7. Complaints by sheriff’s personnel of health issues in the sheriff’s operation center were ignored for a year before action was taken and the sheriff’s operation center abandoned and remediated.
8. The sheriff’s office proposal of a new operation center would cost 35 million dollars, five times the cost of the present operation center.
9. During the corona virus outbreak, there have been no adjustment to law enforcement practices or the population of the inmate facility as has been done in Volusia County placing the county at risk of paying for an outbreak among the inmates and personnel.
Before I am inundated with the angry reaction, I admit I made mistakes in some of my decisions while in office. My selection of Rick Staly over the advice of many as my undersheriff was clearly the most consequential. I selected Rick as my undersheriff because he stated repeatedly he had no interest in becoming sheriff and his law enforcement and operational practices were in line with mine.. When I heard from other sources that he intended to run after resigning, he still denied his candidacy. I thought after Rick won election that he would be a good sheriff for the county. The persona he has taken of an 19th century wild west sheriff has been disappointing.
Bill Nelson says
My, My. No jealousy here !!
Smoke and mirrors says
Well said! And the smoke and mirrors routine is revealed..even though just for a moment!
Lance Carroll says
Thank you for presenting the facts. Wake up folks. Vote Rick Staly out!
Michael Van Buren says
Everybody in the Department saw it in the first year. It was common water cooler talk. But I guess you were too busy seeking revenge to notice
James Manfre says
You were not demoted from your position as traffic supervisor for revenge Mike. It was because every supervisor recommended the demotion due to your failure to schedule the traffic unit on weekends when it was needed most and your defiant attitude towards them. It is called accountability. Stop blaming others for your personal issues. There were no workman compensation filings due to the building while I was sheriff. By the way, we did not have water coolers at the sheriff’s office. We had filtered water fountains because they were less expensive
Michael Van Buren says
That’s funny, because I remember all of us working weekends. (I sure I implemented that change after after complaints from Road Patrol that they needed extra help), and I was never defiant towards anyone in the agency (except maybe you). If staffing was truly an issue, all you had to do (As the Chief Executive in Charge) was to come to me as a Line Staff Supervisor and state it. Or hell you could have just make it a direct order and it would have been done. I don’t accept your misguided version of the events.
I held that position honorably since your first term and in my option did a much better job than my successor (DW) ever did. Never once did I receive a complaint about my performance in over 10 years managing the unit over the course of two Sheriffs. Yet a few months after I called you a liar in a public forum after your despicable behavior regarding Deputy Joe Delarosby’s tragic death, I suddenly get pulled from motors. Coincidence perhaps???? I don’t think so.
And by the way, in my original post, I was in no way or was even thinking about what you did to me. It was about the other lives you tried to destroy. (Plummer, Malta, Clair, Carman, Weston, Catoggio… ….do I need to go on?)
I served the citizens and visitors of Flagler County for over 28 years honorably until I couldn’t take the work environment you created. I would put my work ethic and ethics above yours anytime. And by the way, whether any Worker’s Comp claims were filed while you were still in office is not really relevant since the building was still “brand new while you where still in office.” (Which Thank God wasn’t any longer than it had to be), You still where the Sheriff who was in charge when this whole disaster started, and you own it.
Best of Luck with with rest of your life Little Jimmy. I just pray to God that you never hold a public office again where you can effect so many hard working people again, like you did your last term!
Murder and Rape are up!
Politics as usual from the Staly camp.
Wow they can arrest a bunch of pot heads with minimal amounts of marijuana.
But cant seem to get a grip on murder, rape, and internal corruption.
My son Anthony Fennick should still be with us.. says
Numbers can be fudged, lies roll off the tongue really quick when it comes to making self look good, a pile of dog crap can be made to look like a priceless gem.. but the one thing that could never be covered up is, my son’s blood on his hands.
Lance Carroll says
I was in the same cell block as Anthony. Everyday he , continuously, asked to see a doctor. He complained of headaches and kept telling officers that something wasn’t right.