Florida's crime rate dropped 6.5 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, according to the Annual Uniform Crime Report released Thursday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The total number of crimes fell 5.7 percent from last year, which translates into 43,536 fewer crimes in 2012. The number of violent crimes was down 4.3 percent, or 4,218 fewer crimes reported.
It's the lowest crime rate since the state began compiling the statistics.
"We've been keeping these numbers for 42 years, and this is the lowest it's been since the kickoff day 42 years ago," said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey.
Across Northeast Florida, the crime rate fell in every county except Baker, which was up only 0.5%. While the number of murders in Jacksonville rose from 76 in 2011 to 94 in 2012, the overall crime rate dropped 4.9 percent.
And while the biggest year-to-year drop in crime rate was in Putnam County -- 9.1 percent -- the crime rate there in 2012 was actually a tad higher than in Jacksonville.
The lowering crime rate is also good for Gov. Rick Scott, who is seeking re-election next year.
"It is because of the hard work of Florida's law enforcement community that we can celebrate today's great news about Florida's crime rate," Scott said in a news release Thursday. "Having a low crime rate is important to my goal of creating jobs and opportunities for Florida families, and making our state the best state in the nation to live, work or raise a family."
"The decrease in crime in our state is a direct reflection of the outstanding job our law enforcement officers and prosecutors do to make Florida a safe home to its residents and guests," Attorney General Pam Bondi said. "With this steady decline in our crime rate for the 42nd consecutive year, I am hopeful that we will see across-the-board declines, specifically in the number of reported domestic violence homicides and sex-related crimes."
Non-violent crime decreased 5.9 percent, or a reduction of 39,318 reported crimes compared to 2011. The value of stolen property decreased by 9.1 percent, while the value of property recovered increased 2.7 percent. Total arrests increased 0.8 percent from 2011.
Overall domestic violence fell 3.3 percent. While there were 3,635 fewer victims of domestic violence in 2012, cohabitants continue to be the largest group of victims in this category, with spouses remaining the second largest group.
Crimes committed by firearms continued to drop in 2012, down 2.0 percent with 489 fewer crimes committed with guns in 2012.
Among the bad news in the report was an increase in the number of murders from 985 to 1,009, or 2.4 percent. The total number of sex crimes also increased by 265 to 10,145, or 2.7 percent. While there were slightly fewer rapes, there was an increase in forced sodomy and forcible fondling.
The report also contains information on officers killed in a crime. Two law enforcement officers -- Clay County Detective David White and Brevard County Deputy Sheriff Barbara Ann Pill -- and Florida Correctional Officer Ruben Thomas, of Lake City, died from criminal causes while on duty last year.
In addition, two law enforcement officers died in motorcycle accidents during the course of duty.
FDLE began tracking crime statistics in 1971.
Victim's, crime expert's perspectives
Mackenzie Worthley, who as sexually assaulted last month while on her way to a friend's house in Jacksonville Beach, says she has a lot to be thankful for.
"I was given a second chance in a beautiful way, not in a dark way," said Worthley. "I couldn't be more grateful that's the word of the day."
It's violent crimes, like what happened to Worthley, that have dropped across the state of Florida.
Channel 4 Crime Analyst Ken Jefferson said the numbers are encouraging and reveal people's attitude towards violence.
"I think people and communities are getting involved with things that are going on in their neighborhood," said Jefferson. "Statistics and studies have shown that once people get involved in what's happening in their neighborhood, crime will go down. You will see a decrease in crime because you're taking pride in what's going on in your community."
The complete 2012 Annual Uniform Crime Report, including county-by-county breakdowns, can be found on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's website.