The 2017 Uniform Crime Reports for Winter Park show a 8.1% drop in total index crime, including a 26.9% drop in burglaries.
The numbers are in, and they show that Winter Park was a safer city in 2017 than the year before.
Results from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s 2017 Uniform Crime Reports show Winter Park saw its total index crime drop by 8.1% in 2017. The same reports, released last month, showed violent crime saw a 12% decrease and property crime saw a 7.8% decrease.
One of the city’s biggest concerns in 2016 was residential and commercial burglaries, which showed the biggest decrease of all in 2017 with a 26.9% drop.
“Obviously, I was pleased to see those numbers,” Police Chief Michael Deal said. “The police department is not taking credit for this. As you well know, the crime goes up and goes down. The trend from 2013 and probably beyond has been every other year crime goes down. That means next year we might expect an increase — hopefully not, but that’s very likely.
“However, with that being said, I think 2017 represented significant decrease as compared to previous years. I think 8.1% total index crime was the highest we’ve seen from a decrease standpoint in at least the last five years,” he said.
One of Deal’s biggest priorities when he was hired was to bring burglaries under control. Patrols were increased in specific areas, and the message was spread to residents and business owners to “see something, say something.”
Deal said that push seems to have paid off.
“When you have 175 to 200 burglaries a year — and you reduce them 26-27% —that’s pretty significant,” he said. “One of our initiatives was to really focus on those, to get people in neighborhoods and to patrol the commercial areas. We’ve made a number of arrests over the past couple years, and I really do believe our efforts did have a contribution to that decrease.”
Looking forward, Deal said the department will continue with the same approach to try to keep crime down.
“We want to be more of a community-orientated police department,” Deal said. “We want to be in the neighborhoods. We want our citizens to feel safe, and we know that when they see police cars, they feel safer. Even if crime goes up a little bit, they want to see marked police cars patrolling their streets and their businesses. We’ll continue that.”
Another aspect of having a presence in the community is being more personable with residents, whether it’s through social media or participation in community events. Doing that builds a sense of trust with residents, which is crucial, Winter Park Director of Communications Clarissa Howard said.
“When you see a police officer laughing and socializing with a crowd and people in the neighborhoods, that’s an intentional effort that Chief Deal has done with his officers to make them more people, not just uniforms to protect you but people with hearts there to protect you too,” Howard said.
“We also recognize that public trust is a big issue for law enforcement and government,” Deal said. “If you want citizens and people to trust you, they’ve got to be able to relate to you somehow.”
Deal emphasized residents also deserve credit for the decrease in crime.
“We don’t do this alone,” Deal said. “A number of times we’ve made arrest is because somebody called us. Congratulations needs to go to our community as far as the effort they’ve put forth — not only the trust in the police department to give us information but to be vigilant and to be aware of what’s going on in their communities and to call us.”