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06-27-2007, 12:34 PM
FDLE reports crime stats for past year

Murders and other violent crimes rose at a ''disconcerting'' rate in Florida last year, Gov. Charlie Crist said Tuesday, but he hopes new laws he helped pass will help. Closer to home, Charlotte and Sarasota counties documented increases, while DeSoto County recorded a drop in the crimes used in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement analysis.

The FDLE Crime in Florida report for 2006 compared the numbers and percent changes in certain crimes between 2005 and 2006. The crimes analyzed -- called index offenses -- were murder, forcible sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny (theft) and motor vehicle theft.

Statewide, the numbers showed a surprisingly large jump in gun crimes, including murders, armed robberies and assaults. Overall, the state's crime rate continued a downward trend that has been going on for years.

''I understand ... there are some numbers that are disconcerting, particularly as it relates to murder and other violent crimes,'' Crist said Tuesday. ''Overall I understand it's a 36-year low. So there is goodness in it, too.''

There were 1,129 murders statewide in Florida in 2006, up 28 percent from 2005, according to the report. Armed robberies were up 20 percent and aggravated assault with a gun went up 6 percent.

Despite the rise in gun crimes, Crist said it is not too easy to get a gun in Florida.

Charlotte County, meanwhile, had the same number of murders in 2006 as in 2005 -- two. The number of armed robberies increased from 19 in 2005 to 37 in 2006, and the number of aggravated assaults in general went up 10 percent. Overall, Charlotte County's index offenses rose by 9 percent. Sheriff John Davenport said he was not surprised by the statistics and that the rate of change in the county's population also played a role.

"The crime rate has been going up, and there are reasons for that," he said. "We've been playing catch-up with the staffing levels for the last three years. I think you'll start to see the trend go the other way."

Though the report said thefts and burglaries went down by 22 and 19 percent, respectively, Davenport said those types of crime are a concern for local law enforcement.

Still, "I think we have a relatively safe community here," Davenport said.

In Sarasota County, index offenses increased by 3.6 percent. The biggest percentage jump involved robbery. The number of robberies went from 271 in 2005 to 355 in 2006, a 31 percent increase. The biggest percentage decrease was in the number of forcible sex offenses, which dropped 32 percent from 180 to 123. The number of murders remained about the same, with the county reporting nine in 2005 and 10 in 2006.

DeSoto County reported a 16 percent decrease in index offenses. The number of motor vehicle thefts fell from 61 to 35, a 42.6 percent change, while the number of larcenies went from 705 to 552, or a 22 percent change. Still, larcenies were the most common of the index crimes in DeSoto County. As in 2005, the county reported one murder in 2006.

The data used in the FDLE report is submitted by law enforcement agencies.

On the Web

The statewide and county statistics are available at www.fdle.state.fl.us/fsac/UCR/index.asp (http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/fsac/UCR/index.asp)

Staff, Wire Reports