Violent crime rates were down in Florida from January through June, with Orange County doubling the state’s decrease.
According to the 2010 Mid-Year Uniform Crime Report (UCR) released last month by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida’s crime rates dropped 4.8 percent overall with violent crimes down 10.7 percent and nonviolent crimes down 3.8 percent compared to the first half of last year.
The report details murder, forcible sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft from January to June.
Orange County’s cities reported a 9.2 percent decrease over last year.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office reported a decrease of 8.4 percent.
Lt. Matthew J. Irwin of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office says the application of common sense coupled with more advanced organizational strategies makes for an effective approach.
“We’ve put together some common-sense strategies in terms of things like robberies, burglaries and auto thefts, where our crime analysis component of our agency has become pretty sophisticated,” Irwin said.
“We are able to take that information now and direct our patrol resources to the areas where we’re having problems and provide the visibility and the enforcement that in previous years we just haven’t had.”
While homicides have increased about 45 percent year-to-date over last year, he said every other crime type, including non-violent crime, has decreased.
Maitland saw a 10.3 percent decrease over last year.
Chief Douglas Ball of the Maitland Police Department said that looking at the decrease in the actual number of crimes gives a more realistic look at the statistics.
The total index crimes committed in 2010 was 252 crimes, and during the same reporting period last year, there was 281, a decrease of 29 crimes.
“Statistically it’s a 10 percent decrease, but in actual crimes committed, the numbers are still small. While we are very happy that crime is down, the numbers are not as significant as the percentages may indicate,” Ball said.
Though the actual numbers tell a more specific story, Ball said, community involvement is still one of the main reasons why crime has decreased.
“We’re constantly looking to have more involvement with our residents in programs like neighborhood watch and business watch, and as we form those partnerships, crime does go down. When people see suspicious activity and call it in, we can hopefully prevent crime before it even happens,” Ball said.
“Residents are becoming more aware. …they’re becoming the eyes and ears of the police department.”
Orlando’s percentages were close to Maitland’s at a 10.6 percent decrease, according to the UCR report.
Sgt. Barbara Jones of the Orlando Police Department says their Crime Analysis Unit, which has resulted in more intelligence-led policing , targets habitual offenders and identifies crime focus areas before crime trends develop.
OPD has also implemented new and improved technology, for example the IRIS Camera System, to enhance enforcement efforts.
“We have made a concerted effort to get violent crime down by getting illegal crime guns off the streets and out of the hands of criminals.”
Jones also said that murder rates are down in Orlando — all 13 murders to date have been solved.
OPD has also increased their neighborhood watch programs, providing residents and businesses with proactive crime prevention ideas to stay aware and call when they see suspicious activity.
“The community and our residents are a significant force behind our successes,” Jones said.
Winter Park showed a decrease of 11.6 percent in violent crimes over last year.
Arthur S. King, Deputy Police Chief of the Winter Park Police Department, says violent crime rates fell because law enforcement agencies are sharing intelligence and other law enforcement-related information much better, resulting in the exchange of vital and necessary information utilized to identify crime trends and potential suspects.
Enhanced technologies help officers and resources to be deployed more effectively in specific areas where crime trends have been identified. The department also utilizes “neighborhood watch” as a partner in addressing crime issues and has also implemented a tactical team to suppress crime, King said.
“The cooperation between law enforcement agencies has been great,” King said. “And we will continue to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies in relation to all crime reduction efforts.”
Though Winter Park, Orlando and Maitland all reported higher rates than Orange County as a whole, the small town of Eatonville recorded the highest decreased violent crime rate — 12.6 percent over last year — out of the four municipalities.
Chief Joseph C. Brown, Jr. of the Eatonville Police Department says that open communication between the community and law enforcement is vital to crime reduction.
“There’s a lot of good things about being a small town,” Brown said. “We rely on the community for a lot of information and we’re very open to taking that information and responding … and you can see that in our crime stats.”
Sheriff’s Office: 8.4%
Winter Park: 11.6%
*Violent crimes, January-June compared with January-June of last year