TAMPA — Saying law enforcement officers across the state are better trained and more professional than ever, Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday said just-released 2013 crime statistics show crime in Florida is at at its lowest level in decades.
Scott spoke about the statistics at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement headquarters in Tampa.
“We are at a 43-year-low,” Scott said.
The total number of crimes in Florida is 3.8 percent lower in 2013 from the year before, with every major category showing similar declines. The crime rate, which is a calculation of the number of crimes committed per 100,000 population, dropped by 4.7 percent.
Murder was down by nearly 4 percent; rape and robbery both dropped by nearly 3 percent and aggravated assault declined just over 2 percent, statistics show.
The number of burglaries reported in Florida in 2013 was 9.6 percent lower than the year before, and motor vehicle theft was down by 6.5 percent.
“There were 27,000 fewer crimes in 2013 than there were in 2012,” the governor said.
Scott said the lower crime rate will draw more tourists, which will mean more jobs for Floridians.
“All the businesses in the state want to be in an area with a low crime rate,” he said.
FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said much of the credit goes to better equipped and trained law enforcement officers, who arrested more than 900,000 suspects last year, or almost 2,500 a day.
“We enjoy an increase and growth in professional standards ... and training of officers,” he said. Bailey said officers are better trained when they begin their careers and undergo constant job training. He said forensic sciences also have improved, including facial recognition software and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s DNA database.
The local crime trends mirror the state, with overall crime down 6.4 percent in Hillsborough County; 5.2 percent in Pasco County and 4 percent in Polk. The rate in Pinellas edged down by -.5 percent, state statistics show.
In Tampa, the crime rate dropped by 9.8 percent in 2013 from the year before.
Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee gave credit to a regional drug task force that includes members from several cooperating agencies and said a push last year to corral domestic violence offenders netted more than 5,000 arrests.
“At the end of the day, it’s that deputy sheriff or that police officer or state trooper who is out there on the road at 2 o’clock in the morning who is the one who makes the difference,” he said.
Communities also take some of the credit, said Temple Terrace Police Chief Kenneth Albano, who spoke on behalf of the Florida Police Chiefs Association.
“We appreciate the support from citizens throughout our communities,” he said. Overall crime dropped by 2.7 percent in Temple Terrace, he said.
“We park our cars,” he said. “We get out in the community and we listen to our citizens.”