Florida's crime rate hits 47-year low, but violent crime still high

By Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor, Crystal Moyer - Traffic/reporter
Copyright (c) 2018 CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Standing with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams, Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday that the overall crime rate in Florida is at its lowest point in 47 years. 

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Uniform Crime Report, there were 28,640 fewer crimes in 2017 than the previous year -- which is a 4.5 percent decrease -- and the overall crime rate was down 6 percent over 2016. 

While overall crime is trending down statewide, there are some exceptions in Northeast Florida. The total crime rate was up 46.9 percent in Union County, 2.4 percent in Columbia County and 1.1 percent in Bradford County. Statistical swings are exaggerated in counties with smaller populations, so two murders in 2017 doubled the rate from 2016, when there was one.

Safest communities: Crime rate by county

Source: FDLE 2017 crime data
    

Jacksonville's overall crime rate was down 1.3 percent last year over the previous year, violent crime was up 1.5 percent and there were six more murders in 2017 than 2016 -- a 5.7 percent increase.

At 18.1 percent, Putnam County's drop in its overall crime was the biggest in Northeast Florida. Its violent crime rate also had the largest drop in the area: 31.7 percent 

Nassau County saw a 17.1 percent rise in violent crime last year, even though its overall crime rate dropped 3.3 percent.

CRIME DATA: FDLE crime stats for state, Northeast Florida counties

According to the FDLE data, Leon County remains the most crime-ridden county in Florida, with 4,802 crimes per 100,000 people, followed by Bay County at 4,283, Duval Country at 4,230 and Orange County at 4,022.

In Northeast Florida, Alachua and Columbia counties also had a crime rate above the state average. Alachua had a high rate of violent crime, with about the same rate as Duval County. 

The lowest crime rate in Northeast Florida was in Union County, with 896.7 per 100,000 people.

Scott said one reason for the drop in overall crime is funding the state has provided to law enforcement in recent years.

“We continue to make investments each year to keep our communities safe, and these investments are working," Scott said. "Our state’s continuously decreasing crime rate is a reminder of the dedication and hard work of Florida’s law enforcement officers. We must continue to support and thank them every day for their commitment to keeping Florida families safe.”

Curry and Williams noted that they have seen a reduction in violent crime so far this year after more officers joined the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

"While this is by no means where we want to be, we know we're headed in the right direction for our neighborhoods and families and future of our city," Williams said.

"While we celebrate the state’s lowest crime rate in 47 years, let’s not forget the high price of our safety and the heroes who pay it," Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement, referring to the five law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty so far this year.

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