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Florida’s crime rate declines to 46-year low
Most local jurisdictions also show decrease in crime in 2016
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Pinellas County’s overall crime index was down 9.2 percent and the crime rate per 100,000 declined by 10.1 percent in 2016. The state reported the lowest crime rate in 46 years.
Gov. Rick Scott recently announced that 18,146 fewer crimes had occurred statewide in 2016 as compared to the previous year. Florida’s crime rate fell to a 46-year low.

Scott and other state officials attribute the reduction in crime to the work being done by law enforcement and the courts.

“The continued decline in Florida’s crime rate is a testament to the effective police work performed daily by our brave law enforcement officers and the great work of state prosecutors securing strong sentences for criminals,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Effective work by local law enforcement resulted in a decline in offenses reported by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and most of the county’s municipal police departments last year. In 2015, the countywide offense index was up 3 percent. In 2016, it was down 9.2 percent. The crime rate per 100,000 was 4,274 in 2015, up 1.8 percent from 2014, and 3,827 in 2016, down 10.1 percent from 2015.

Countywide, only one category showed an increase in offenses and that was murder. In 2015, 31 murders were committed and 39 in 2016. In 2014, 42 murders were committed in the county.

St. Petersburg police with 20 reported the majority of murders last year. The sheriff’s office reported five, Clearwater police had five, Pinellas Park police worked four, Largo PD had three, and Oldsmar police and Tarpon Springs PD worked one case each.

The number of murder cases worked by the sheriff’s office stayed the same from 2015 to 2016. St. Petersburg police had only 14 in 2015, Clearwater police had seven, Pinellas Park reported zero, Largo PD had two, Oldsmar had zero and Tarpon Springs reported zero cases. Gulfport, Indian Rocks Beach and St. Pete Beach all reported one in 2015.

Criminal offenses reported by the sheriff’s office came in 4.4 percent lower last year, compared to a 9 percent increase in 2015. Fewer offenses were reported in all categories except motor vehicle theft, which increased from 404 in 2015 to 421 last year.

However, countywide, fewer motor vehicle thefts occurred in 2016 - 2,390 compared to 2,846 in 2015. St. Petersburg PD reported the bulk of vehicle thefts with 1,095. Largo police had 242 cases. Clearwater police worked 232 cases and Pinellas Park reported 172. Other jurisdictions reported numbers ranging from 39 to zero.

The sheriff’s department reported fewer rapes in 2016, 111 compared to 136 in 2015. St. Petersburg police reported 122 last year, which was down from 136 reported in 2015. Clearwater police reported 89 rapes, which marked an increase from 82 the year before. Largo had 60 in 2016, down from 67 the previous year. The rest of jurisdictions had numbers ranging from 21 to zero.

The sheriff’s office reported five fewer robberies, 149 in 2016 compared to 154 in 2015. Other jurisdictions with high numbers last year included St. Petersburg with 556 compared to 573 in 2015; Clearwater with 145 compared to 181 in 2015; and Largo with 116 compared to 117 the previous year.

Aggravated assaults reported by the sheriff’s office dropped by 130 from 592 in 2015 to 462 last year. St. Petersburg police reported the largest number in the county with 1,029, which was down from 1,175 in 2015. Clearwater PD had 339 assault cases in 2016 and 409 in 2015. Largo reported 211 last year and 225 in 2015. Pinellas Park had 130 compared to 173 in 2015. Tarpon Springs had 74, up from 72 the previous year.

The sheriff’s office worked 907 burglary cases in 2016, which are 151 fewer than the 1,058 reported in 2015. St. Petersburg again reported the highest number of cases with 1,938 in 2016 and 2,319 the previous year. Clearwater PD had 555 cases in 2016 and 638 in 2015. Largo reported 458, down from 506 in 2015. Pinellas Park had 351 compared to 357 the previous year.

St. Petersburg police worked the most larceny cases, 9,771, which was down considerably from 10,542 reported in 2015. The sheriff’s office had 4,511, down from 4,549 in 2015. Clearwater PD reported 2,968 cases of larceny in 2016 compared to 3,420 in 2015. Largo had 2,289, down from 2,580 the previous year, and Pinellas Park reported 2,127 compared to 2,417 in 2015.

All but five local jurisdictions reported a decrease in the total crime index in 2016 - Belleair, Belleair Bluffs, Dunedin, South Pasadena and University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus had an increase. Belleair Bluffs, Dunedin and South Pasadena are served by the sheriff’s office.

Belleair had the highest increase, a 60 percent hike. Larceny cases went from 46 cases in 2015 to 75 in 2016. Motor vehicle thefts doubled with 18 in 2016 with only nine reported the previous year. Burglary cases went from seven in 2015 to 10 in 2016, and one aggravated assault was reported both years. Belleair police worked two robbery cases in 2015 and zero in 2016.

Eight burglary cases pushed Belleair Bluff’s crime index 18.6 percent higher last year. Only two burglaries were reported in 2015. Thirty-seven larceny cases were reported both years and four motor vehicle thefts occurred in the town each year. There also was one aggravated assault case and one robbery in 2016 and zero the previous year.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.

Revised. Aggravated assaults reported in Tarpon Springs was up in 2016, not down.
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