Crime in the Jacksonville area has seen a drop, but still trends higher than statewide numbers, according to the 2017 Uniform Crime Report which was released Tuesday.
Total crime in Duval County, the report details, went down a little more than 1 percent last year as compared to 2016, that's even though the number of certain violent crimes ticked up.
Statewide, 2017 saw a six percent drop in overall crime per 100,000 people compared to 2016. The report notes that the 2016 statistics had an unusually higher murder rate as a result of the Pulse night club shooting.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott joined Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams and Mayor Lenny Curry at the sheriff’s office to announce the numbers and release the state’s newest crime statistics report.
Williams admitted the Duval numbers could be better, but said after recently hiring almost 200 new officers, he believes the county is moving in the right direction.
“The state numbers show us where we should be and that’s our goal, to be moving in the direction and trending — you know again, while we have some momentum here, our numbers don’t reflect the state numbers,” he said.
Scott said that he was proud of the downward trend and gave much of the credit to beefing up law enforcement, but also said he was “absolutely” worried cuts to prison mental health and substance abuse programs could erode some of the gains made in crime reduction, which as of last year was at a 47 year low he said.
“The reason why I asked for the money is if you look through those programs, they worked. We’ve made significant investments in reentry programs in the state and it’s worked. If you look at the recidivism rate — the number of people in our prison system — it’s gone down and you can look at the crime rate,” he said.
Florida’s legislature passed a budget last year that was $28 million short as compared to what the Florida Department of Corrections said it needed to cover total costs, reported the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau. Now, to close the gap, the prison system is eliminating programs that help prepare inmates for their return to the community.
Scott laid the blame on lawmakers for the accounting problem, saying he had proposed fully funding those reentry and substance abuse programs.
“Part of it is what the sheriff is doing and part of it is what sheriffs around and police chiefs are doing around the state and part of [it] is what [the Florida Department of Law Enforcement], all of it. But also, what’s [the Department of Juvenile Justice] doing? What’s corrections doing? The legislature has to fund those programs,” he said.
Duval County saw murders increase from 106 in 2016 to 112 last year. That number doesn’t include homicides that are justifiable, excusable or accidental. According to the numbers, rapes and assaults were also up during the same period, but burglaries had gone down. Sheriff Williams told reporters the rates of violent crimes are so far trending lower this year.
The share of crimes reported to the Jacksonville Beach Police Department saw the largest drop in Duval County — close to 14 percent, while the Atlantic Beach Police Department saw its rate climb by 3 percent.
Leon County, which includes the capital Tallahassee, saw a 15 percent drop in its crime rate, but is still at the top of Florida’s 67 counties.