Region's Crime, National Figures Contrast; FBI Says Violent Crime Up, Property Crimes Down, but City's Statistics Are Opposite
Murphy, Bridget, The Florida Times Union
Byline: BRIDGET MURPHY
FBI figures released Monday showed violent crime rose 2.5 percent nationally in 2005, but property crimes went down 1.6 percent.
The numbers for Jacksonville and the surrounding region told a somewhat different story.
Preliminary annual statistics the FBI collected showed violent crime as a whole dropped in the city in 2005. There were fewer murders, rapes and aggravated assaults than in 2004. However, there were 30 more robberies, the report showed.
Again contrasting with the national outlook, the city's property crimes increased, registering 279 more incidents last year compared with the year earlier. There were fewer burglaries, but more thefts, notably 212 more auto thefts.
Jacksonville Undersheriff Frank Mackesy said Monday he believes the drop in total violent crime came as a result of initiatives Sheriff John Rutherford put in place aimed at decreasing the number of murders. While up this year, murders decreased in 2005 to 91 from 104 in 2004, according to the FBI's report.
The undersheriff said having 40 community service officers on the street for the first time for a full year also helped fight violent crime by freeing police officers to answer 911 calls as community service officers acted as a force multiplier, dealing with about 27,000 calls that didn't require a sworn officer.
He said the increase in property crimes could be attributed to population growth, with more people meaning more stuff for other people to steal.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement hasn't released final statistics on crime in the state's counties for 2005, a report that's expected within a few weeks.
But statistics from local counties outside Jacksonville show the region isn't following the national trends for the most part.
In Clay County, violent crime went up 35 percent and nonviolent crime increased by 18 percent, according to a Sheriff's Office report. Murders, however, dropped from six in 2004 to five in 2005, the agency's statistics also show. In the past, Sheriff Rick Beseler attributed part of that spike to the proximity to Jacksonville, saying it is difficult to fight big-city crime on a small-city budget. …