Crime rate down in Florida, up in St. Johns, Putnam, Alachua

Murder rate rises in Jacksonville, statewide

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Overall crime in the state was down the first half of the year, but a report released this week by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show that the number of murders and rapes has risen.

While that trend held in Jacksonville and much of north Florida, overall crime in St. Johns, Putnam and Alachua counties increased in the first six months of 2016.

St. Johns County Sheriff's Office attributes some of the increase to growth. With 400 people moving in each month, crime is going to go up, as well. But law enforcement believes increased drug use is alos a factor.

"The heroin. The methamphetamine. Many of these people get to a point of addiction that they can no longer hold a job," Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan said. "Their area of garnering money is to steal, and we know we have to fight that battle as well."

Even though rape, larceny and vehicle theft were down in St. Johns County, murder, robbery, aggravated assault and burglary were all up, contributing to a 6.9 percent overall increase in crime. There were five murders during the first six months of the year, with only two reported during the same time period last year.

Many people move to St Johns County thinking it is a safe and quiet community.

"Somebody did try to break into my house, so I think it's people who come outside out of the area and do that," resident Lee Lent said.

Increases in crime are even greater in Alachua County (8.5 percent) and Putnam County (24.6 percent). 

Overall crime dropped by 3.5 percent in Duval County the first half of the year, but violent crime, including murders, is up.

"Homicide is up. Sexual assault is up," News4Jax crime analyst Gil Smith said. "So certain things are up. I know the sheriff has a violent crime addition (that) was started in February of this year to try and bring down some of those violent crimes."

The report shows Jacksonville lost the dubious distinction as the murder capital of Florida, but only because of the June massacre at Orlando's Pulse nightclub.

Clay County has seen crime drop by 4.7 percent, but the number of murders, rapes and aggravated assaults are up. Nassau County's rate dropped by 12.7 percent.

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