Monroe County crime rate drops in 2013

By Steve Estes

Although the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has not publicly released their Major Index Crimes report for the state, the Sheriff’s Office has received information from that agency which indicates crime in the areas patrolled by the Sheriff’s Office went down in 2013 by 12.5% over the previous year.

“This is tremendous news,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. The year in question was his first year as Sheriff of Monroe County. “This is a substantial reduction in major crimes here and we should all be proud of the hard work that brought this about.”

Sheriff Ramsay attributes the lower rate of crime to the hard work of his deputies and the close partnership his agency has with the community.

“I believe the hard work of our deputies, and the close working relationship they have with the community they serve is responsible for making our county a safer place,” he said. ‚”I think we are on the right track with the community initiatives we have been concentrating on since I took office. There is no reason why this downward trend in crime cannot continue in the future if we all work hard together to improve our streets and neighborhoods.”

Sheriff Ramsay has pushed hard when it comes to cleanliness and quality of life in the Keys. He has taken the well-known “Broken Windows Theory” of crime and criminal behavior to heart and so have the people who work for him.

The Broken Windows theory posits that the appearance of disorder – including trash on the streets, graffiti and abandoned homes and vehicles – leads to more disorder and criminal behavior. It theorizes that keeping neighborhoods clean and in good shape encourages people who live there to maintain order and discourages crime from taking place.

Sheriff Ramsay has set up numerous neighborhood clean ups; his officers paint out graffiti within 24 hours of finding it; he has overseen the installation of street lights, and is often seen himself picking up trash and painting out unsightly graffiti on the side of the road.

“It is rewarding and gratifying to see the results of our efforts in this reduction in crime,” said Sheriff Ramsay. “I want to thank everyone for their support and assistance in our efforts. It is only as a team that we can continue to be effective.”

Reduction of crime is not the only positive aspect of the FDLE report. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office saw crime clearance rates go up as well. The clearance rate for crime in Monroe County increased from 24.4% in 2012 to 29.7% in 2013.

“We are particularly pleased because we saw our clearance rate for crimes increase substantially,” said Sheriff Ramsay. “Clearing crimes in a county with as many visitors as we have can be difficult. Victims go home and are hard to find, suspects are often from another jurisdiction. Many crimes go unreported for long periods because we have so many part time residents.”

There are two ways to clear a case: by arrest, or “cleared by exception”, which means an offender has been identified but there is something beyond the agency’s control which keeps that offender from being arrested. An example would be the offender is dead, extradition is denied, or the case involves a juvenile offender who cannot be charged for some reason.

While the FDLE information is preliminary and has not officially been released to the public, it shows the following numbers for specific Major Index Crimes in Monroe County:

  • Total Index crimes went down, from 1,953 in 2012 to 1,708 in 2013.
  • Murder, Forcible Sex Offenses and Robbery all saw no change from 2012 to 2013.
  • Aggravated Assaults increased by 20%, from 143 to 172.
  • Burglaries decreased by 12.2%, from 344 to 302.
  • Larceny (which includes all types of theft related property crimes) went down by 17%, from 1,378 to 1,144.
  • Motor Vehicle Theft increased by 4.2%, from 48 to 50.

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