|FDLE Crime in Florida--July 2012 Wakulla Times|
FDLE CRIME IN FLORIDA STATISTICS PAINT A MOSTLY POSITIVE PICTURE OF CRIME ACTIVITY IN THE STATE AND WAKULLA COUNTY
Every year the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) asks law enforcement agencies across the state to compile crime statistics so FDLE can monitor trends in our little section of the world. Thanks to the outstanding efforts of our law enforcement team and the citizens who refuse to allow criminal activity to rule their lives, Wakulla County remains a very safe place to live.
It was very unusual for Wakulla County to have to investigate a murder but in March 2011 our agency was called to a double homicide in northern Wakulla County. Ultimately we were able to apprehend our suspect in Southern Georgia and he remains in the Wakulla County Jail waiting for the wheels of justice within the criminal court system to address his case.
Thankfully, this act of violence occurred only once in 2011 and has not occurred since. We pride ourselves in being able to solve the most unusual and complex cases. Our two murders added to the total of 985 in Florida in 2011 which was two less than the number reported in 2010.
Murder is one of seven offenses that fall under the category of “index crimes” which also include forcible sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft. Before I get into breaking down index statistics, I want to discuss something that is very important to me.
In 2011, Wakulla County ranked 14th in the state for the highest crime solvency rate in the State of Florida, according to statistics recently released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The statistics are broken into 67 counties and include sheriff’s offices and police departments in the various communities. In this community, if you are a victim of an index crime, there is just one agency to call, the WCSO.
In 2011, the Crime Clearance rate in Wakulla County was 39.1 percent. Even some smaller counties struggled to get their crime clearance rates higher than Wakulla with many fewer crimes to solve. The state average for crime clearance is 24.2 percent.
Wakulla County saw an increase in the total number of crimes from 2010 to 2011 which included a jump in the number of property crimes. More victims of vehicle burglaries reported crimes involving their unlocked vehicles. Despite an increase in crime attributable to the weak economy, Wakulla County remains one of the safest counties in which to live in Florida.
In Florida, there was a six case decrease in forcible sex crimes to 9,880 in 2011 when compared to 2010. Robberies were down statewide by 457 cases in 2011. Aggravated assaults dropped by 3,259 cases statewide. Burglary cases increased statewide by 1,223 cases. Larceny complaints increased by 3,277 cases in response to the soft economy and opportunistic criminals. Motor vehicle thefts decreased by 1,814 statewide.
Looking at Wakulla County Index Crime numbers, violent crime includes murder, forcible sex offenses, robbery and aggravated assault. Four out of the last five years there have been fewer than 99 violent crimes committed in the county as violent crimes remain low. From 1996 to 2006, every year the county recorded more than 100 violent crimes except 1997.
Property Index Crimes include burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft. Burglary numbers were up slightly in 2011 but the number recorded was less than many of the past reporting periods. There were 53 more larceny cases in 2011 compared to 2010. Many of these cases were directly related to the theft of items from unlocked motor vehicles. We have attempted to get the word out to our citizens that it is important to keep your vehicles locked even if your vehicle is parked at home. If you must keep valuables inside the vehicle, please keep the vehicle locked.
Individuals who are seeking to make a quick dollar are looking for unlocked vehicles with valuables left on the seat or floor. They can quickly get inside the vehicle, take the items and leave the scene without smashing out a window and creating extra work for themselves. If the vehicle is already locked these perpetrators simply move on to the next vehicle. There are so many vehicles left unlocked that it is quicker for them to move on from a locked vehicle rather than attempt to make a forced entry.
The economy is playing a big role in the increase of property crimes. Statewide people are looking for ways to make money and with the price of metal up these criminals are becoming opportunists and targeting vacant homes and other locations where metal can be stolen and turned into cash. Until the economy turns around I think we will continue to see criminals attempting to take advantage of unlocked vehicles and vacant homes.
Over the years the FDLE Crime Statistics have noted that the state average for crime clearance has varied very little. From 1998 to 2011, the state crime clearance average has hovered between 22 percent and 25.2 percent, which it reached in 2009. During the same reporting period, Wakulla County’s crime clearance has ranged from 29.29 percent in 1998 to 48.6 percent in 2003. Most of the reporting period has seen Wakulla County with crime clearances of more than 30 percent and three years of more than 40 percent.
The crime rate per 100,000 people’s worth of population allows you to compare small communities against larger cities in an effort to determine the percentage chance you have of becoming a victim of crime. Your chances of becoming a victim of crime in Wakulla County have always been much less than the state average and that statistic remained true in 2011.
During some years the chances were double that you could become a victim of crime outside of Wakulla County.
The FDLE crime statistics are kept over a 12 month calendar year that begins in January and concludes in December. But at the sheriff’s office, we operate on a fiscal calendar from October 1 to September 30.
During the year October 1, 2010 to September 30, 2011, the WCSO Narcotics and Street Crimes Unit initiated a total of 86 investigations.
Other narcotic related cases included two investigations where marijuana and prescription drugs were being sent and received through the U.S. Postal Service. The unit was able to work in conjunction with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Postal Service to conclude these cases. In addition, two cultivation cases were investigated.
The Unit initiated six charges of sale of alcohol to minors at local establishments in Wakulla County. The suspects were identified and given notices to appear in court to face misdemeanor charges following each operation.
One narcotics case of note was an extensive investigation involving prescription narcotics being introduced into the Wakulla County Jail. During the investigation several subjects were identified and three separate operations were conducted to uncover the main suspect. At the conclusion of the investigation, the main suspect was arrested while he was incarcerated at the Wakulla County Jail awaiting sentencing on home invasion charges.
The Criminal Investigations Division (CID) received and investigated 1,663 cases. CID closed 287 of the cases with an arrest with the total number of individuals arrested reaching 220. The WCSO recovered $253,438 worth of personal property.
In addition, the CID Crime Prevention and Public Education effort developed numerous crime prevention education documents and created presentations for the community including topics on Protecting Your Money; Money Order Scams; Telephone Scams; Grandparent Scams; On-Line Business Scams; Internet Fraud; IRS Tax Fraud; Social Network Safety; and Child Predator Safety and Awareness.
The Public Information Office and CID worked together to provide informational flyers on Protecting Your Property; Protecting Your Child; Bus Safety; Domestic Violence; Project Lifesaver; Elderly Fraud; Suicide Awareness and Prevention; Internet Safety, Bicycle Safety and Halloween Safety.
We are excited to have developed and implemented a Drug Take Back Program. This program has been a huge success and a great benefit to the community and our citizens while protecting the environment from the danger associated with unwanted and hard to dispose of narcotics. Our deputies periodically spend four hours in three locations around the county accepting donations of unwanted drugs for proper disposal.
But since we can’t do that every day, we have a secure drug disposal bin in the lobby of the sheriff’s office where citizens can drop off their unwanted narcotics any time of the day or night. The bin is secure and is emptied on a regular basis by the Property and Evidence Division. The drugs are removed from the bin through a detailed method which includes bagging the collected drugs, sealing of the bag and proper disposal of the bag.
Since the program was instituted last year WCSO staff has collected more than 200 pounds of prescription medications that we know will never make its way into our environment or into the hands of someone who might abuse the drugs. It doesn’t end up threatening our drinking water or our children.
Two longtime members of my staff retired recently. Captain Tommy Martin retired from his law enforcement post after 30 years on the job. Lt. Steve Ganey retired after nearly 15 years on the WCSO staff. I wish them well in their future endeavors. They had both been in command of road patrol shifts prior to their retirements.
The WCSO also raised $3,000 through a fundraiser for the Wakulla County Special Olympics. The Tip A Cop fundraiser was held at Posey’s Restaurant in Panacea. The money collected helped the Special Olympic athletes attend the state Special Olympic Games at ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World in May.
My office has nominated Sgt. Ronald Mitchell and his K-9 partner Gunny for a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Trailing Team Award. FDLE recognizes the efforts of top K-9 units from across Florida as they respond to the challenges of their jobs. Sgt. Mitchell was nominated for his work in finding a lost child in a heavily wooded area near Wakulla Beach Road in the fall months of 2011.
I hope everyone is having a safe and enjoyable summer!