Florida’s crime rate continues to fall, contradicting popular perceptions

Florida’s crime rate continues to fall despite widespread perceptions that crime is on the rise.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s recently released Semi-Annual Uniform Crime Report, overall crime declined in the Sunshine State by 3.4 percent over the first six months of 2016, compared to the first six months of last year.

In Manatee County, overall crime dropped by 12.7 percent during the first half of 2016, compared to the same period in 2015. The decline was fueled by drops in all categories of crime, except for murders — from seven to 12 — and motor vehicle thefts.

In 2015, Florida’s crime rate hit a 45-year low.

The downward statistical trend mirrors national data, even as many Americans believe the opposite is happening.

A Nov. 16 Pew Research Survey found that despite double-digit percentage decreases in violent and property crime rates over the past eight years, a majority of voters say crime is getting worse.

Of those who voted or planned to vote on Election Day, 57 percent said they believed crime has gotten worse nationwide, according to Pew.

Barney Bishop, president and CEO of the Florida Smart Justice Alliance, chalked up much of the perception-versus-reality gap to the old media adage that “if it bleeds, it leads.”

“Intense media coverage of specific events, such as police shootings, assassinations of police officers and election-related protests and rioting, can blend into a sense that more crime is occurring,” Bishop said in an interview.

Still, a recent uptick in violent crime is something to keep an eye on, he said.

Last week’s state crime report showed a continued decline in robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, larceny and forcible fondlings, while showing an increase in murder and rape.

There were 69 more rapes from January through June than there were in the state during the same period last year – a 1.9 percent increase. Murder rose a staggering 15.2 percent, but includes the Pulse Nightclub attack in Orlando on June 12.

“The Pulse Nightclub attack was a terrorist attack,” Gretl Plessinger, FDLE communications director, told Watchdog in an email.

“In Uniform Crime Reporting, there is no category for terrorism. The murder victims of Pulse were counted under the crime of murder,” she said.

If categorized separately, 25 more murders – in a state of 20 million residents – would have been reported.

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