Polk County's crime rate in the unincorporated areas (for which PCSO is responsible) continues to decline, according to the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) statistics reported annually to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The crime rate, which is the number of crimes per 1,000 residents, was 3.02 in 2006, down from 3.17 in 2005. This is the lowest crime rate ever measured in unincorporated Polk, breaking last year’s record of an all-time low. Reliable crime statistics in Polk County start in 1971, when the crime rate was 4.16.
According to the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) statistics, as reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), for the year 2006 for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, crime is down slightly—0.23%, or 25 crimes, from 10,799 crimes in 2005 to 10,774 crimes in 2006. Comparing 2006 to 1997, when PCSO implemented its Proactive Community Attack on Problems (PROCAP) program, crime is down 44%, and the crime rate is down 54.8%.
One category had a significant percentage increase, compared to a considerable decrease in 2005: Homicides were down 40% to a record low of 6. In 2006, PCSO reported 15 homicides, an increase of 9. Every year since 1997, the homicide category has been in the double-digits, except for the noteworthy low of 6 homicides in 2005.
Sheriff Grady Judd explains, “Homicides, which are typically crimes of passion and difficult to prevent, went down significantly in 2005. Last year, we reported 15 homicides to FDLE—9 more than the year prior. However, we are proud to report that of those, only 2 remain unsolved. Our detectives do a phenomenal job solving violent crimes that occur in Polk County. And crime is down in every category compared to 1997, when we first implemented our proactive, community policing program called PROCAP. Thanks to strong partnerships within the community and the hard work of the men and women in this agency, overall crime is lower today in unincorporated Polk County than ever before. ”
Mirroring a trend found in other larger metropolitan areas, violent crime increased in the unincorporated areas in 2006. Contributing significantly to this increase has been robberies—87 more robberies occurred in 2006 than in 2005. “Fortunately, the vast majority of robberies involve no violence to the victim, but we are taking this trend very seriously,” says Chief W.J. Martin, Commander over the Criminal Investigations Division. “We are working with area law enforcement agencies to combat this increasing trend. We also need our retail business partners to help by installing inexpensive but reliable camera surveillance systems that act as a disincentive to criminals and help us solve these crimes if they occur.”
An analysis by the PCSO Bureau of Special Investigations shows that roughly half of the robbery cases in 2006 were related to other criminal activity, such as narcotics transactions gone awry or robberies between those involved in the drug culture. “For the vast majority of law abiding citizens, robberies remain a very rare occurrence,” said Chief Martin. “People run a much higher risk of being a victim of a robbery if they are involved with illegal drugs.”