By the time this half hour is over, 30 violent crimes will have been committed in Florida, and by the time you finish reading this story two non-violent crimes will have occurred. Still, Floridians are safer today, according to Gov. Jeb Bush, than this time last year.
“In 2003 Florida had the lowest crime rate in 33 years," says Bush.
The 1993 murder of a tourist sent Florida on a prison building binge and a crackdown on its image as a crime ridden state. Those on the front line say it's paid off. Violent crime is down 38 percent in a decade.
Bob Crowder is Sheriff of Martin County. It's a small number of the population that is responsible for a large number of the crimes, so for every predator that we arrest the greater the impact is we have on reducing the crime rate.
One in five crimes reported last year involved domestic violence, but reports of those crimes fell by nine-tenths of a percent. Gun crimes were down, the number of gun arrests up.
The state statistics may not be as rosy as they appear, that's because in popular Broward County, where nearly 10 percent of the state's population lives, the sheriff's office is under investigation for manipulating crime stats.
Some small cities in Broward are showing crime increases this year of 50 percent and more. Still, FDLE Chief Guy Tunnell says the impact on state numbers will be minimal. “You are talking about a point five percent change."
When population is factored in 2003 was the 12 straight year that crime fell in the state.
While overall gun crime was down, murders with a firearm were up two percent. Drug arrests made up 14 percent of all arrests, and juveniles accounted for 19 percent of the major index crime arrests.
Around this area, Bay County's crime rate edged up slightly last year, jumping a little more than two percent.
A check of the numbers shows improvements in two violent crimes, murder and aggravated assault.
However, Bay Countians just couldn’t keep their hands off other people's property last year. All four theft related crime categories had higher totals than in 2002.
Bay was one of six area counties with higher crime rates. Washington County’s rate was up almost 25 percent over 2002. Franklin County’s sheriff is probably smiling. His county’s rate fell a little more than twenty percent.
And, to put these numbers in perspective, remember, just a few crimes can cause big percentage changes in the small counties crime figures. For example, Lafayette County's rate jumped 431 percent.
The complete 2003 Annual Crime in Florida Uniform Crime Report, including county-by-county breakdowns, can be found on FDLE's website: www.fdle.state.fl.us