Polk County Sheriff Lawrence W. Crow, Jr. announced today that crime has dropped 26% in the unincorporated areas of the county during 1999.
"Crime is lower now than it has been since I was a young sergeant working in 1973 at the Lakeland Police Department. This incredible drop in crime is the result of a lot of hard work, proactive community policing and keeping criminals in jail," said Sheriff Lawrence Crow, Jr.
According to the 1999 Crime in Florida Annual Report of the state's crime statistics released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, crime in Polk County dropped two and a half times more than crime in the state. The state's numbers represent an overall 10.8% decrease in crime state-wide, compared to unincorporated Polk County's overall drop of 26%.
The FDLE reported that overall, crime volume decreased by 8.9%, violent crimes decreased 7.7%, and nonviolent crimes reflected a 9% decrease. Polk County Sheriff's Office crime statistics reveal that violent crimes declined 15%, and non-violent 27.8% from 1998-1999. Unincorporated Polk crime statistics are as follows:
The violent crime clearance rate (cases solved or wrapped up) increased 16.9% from 1998 to 1999. This means that the Sheriff's Office's emphasis on taking a pro-active, community-based partnership approach to solving crimes is working. Only one crime category experienced an increase, which is due in part to the Kayla McKean Law: in 1999 there was a 27.9% increase in sex offenses - from 286 to 366.
The dramatic decrease in crime has occurred despite continued population growth in Polk County. Sheriff Crow credits three main areas of emphasis as strong factors in the drop in crime:
PROCAP/COPS: In January of 1998, the Polk County Sheriff's Office began PROCAP - a program that emphasizes crime data analysis, Community Oriented Policing, and problem-oriented policing, allowing deputies to be more proactive rather than reactive in fighting crime. Law enforcement efforts are focused on gathering and organizing statistical data to determine where and when crime is occurring, and then increasing law enforcement presence in those areas to prevent future crimes. The ultimate goal of PROCAP is improving the quality of life for the citizens of Polk County. Since PROCAP and COPs, there has been an overall 31% decrease in crime in unincorporated Polk County.
Community Involvement: By working together with community residents, deputies discover the real concerns of neighborhood residents. The Sheriff's Office has learned that fighting neighborhood crime begins with attacking the "quality of life" issues of the community - such as traffic problems, drug activity and dilapidated structures that need to be torn down. Several known drug and prostitution houses have been condemned and torn down this year due to the efforts of deputies working in neighborhoods.
Partnership with the Board of County Commissioners: The Board of County Commissioners has supported the Sheriff's Office by making crime fighting a high priority. This strong partnership formed with the common goal of attacking crime has produced very positive results. For example, the Youth Protection Ordinance has been a significant tool in reducing criminal activity during late hours. Recently, a teenage boy who was stopped by a deputy in the early morning hours for breaking the curfew turned out to be a murder suspect who led the deputy to the victim's body. The Board of County Commissioners also continues to support PROCAP, Community Oriented Policing (COPs) programs, and other community-based programs by approving substantial grant-partnership funding.
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