[Last updated on June 28, 2021, at 1:16 p.m. to clarify data confirmed by FDLE]
Marion County — A Uniform Crime Report released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would seemingly lead the public — as perpetuated by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office — to believe that the crime rate in Marion County has actually dropped by nearly 9 percent.
That number was completely presented to the public under false pretenses.
In a Feb. 2021 email to Ocala Post, Dana Kelly, Communications Coordinator for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said FDLE was still collecting data for the year 2020 and that the report would be released sometime in 2021.
The Annual UCR calculates crime rate – a calculation based on population; the total number of index crimes reported per 100,000 people, and crime volume – by the total number of index crimes reported by law enforcement.
As reported on February 22, 2021, under the “total crime rate” category, the overall violent crime rate is up 3.6 percent, and under “index offenses” murder was up 6.9 percent.
The violent crime offenses also include robberies, rapes, aggravated assaults, larcenies, and motor vehicle thefts.
When reading the report, as explained by FLDE, the UCR shows “total index crime” and “total crime rate” has decreased. However, those figures also include non-violent crimes and those percentages are lower due to the fact that there was a significant drop in burglaries reported to FDLE — 25 percent — and those numbers are also averaged into the final numbers.
Additionally, while rape was down by 7 percent, there was a 6 percent increase in robbery, an 8.4 percent increase in aggravated assault, and an 8.4 percent increase in motor vehicle thefts.
So while “total index crimes” show a decrease of 5.7 percent, according to FDLE, the number of total violent crimes in Marion has increased — from 1,475 in 2018 to 1,556 in 2019 — an increase of 5.5 percent.
Statistical data compared with all other counties show that Marion County was listed as number 30 out of 67 counties for most dangerous. Ocala is currently listed in the top 20 in the state of Florida for most violent cities. Orlando comes in as number two and Miami Beach is number one.
To put this into perspective, Orange County reported 7,805 violent crimes and Marion County (not including Ocala) reported 1,556.
In the new report just released by FDLE, it would appear that crime, did, in fact, drop by nine percent. However, that data was collected during a shutdown due to the pandemic and does not reflect actual crime rates and statistics.
As confirmed with FDLE (meaning crime rate reports were confirmed), a reasonable person could conclude that crime was lower across the board for every county in Florida during the reported time from 2020 because fewer people were out and about as a result of a statewide lockdown. FDLE did not comment on the reason crime rates were lower.
“FDLE receives UCR statistics from the reporting agencies. We do not interpret the data or provide commentary on the data. That is usually done by criminologists or university professors,” said FDLE.
To put this into perspective, Miami Beach, located in Dade County – the number one most dangerous city in Florida — showed a 14 percent drop in crime. Again, this is due to the fact that people were confined to their homes.
FDLE crime rates are based on the totality of daily offenses and arrests. They are not based on an every Wednesday arrest of a wanted fugitive.
Data provided by FDLE between January and June of 2020 :
For Marion County, during the lockdown, the total crime index fell from 8,397 to 7,569. Murder dropped from 31 to 19, rape from 227 to 184, robbery from 211 to 136, burglary from 1,198 to 1,141, larceny from 4,947 to 4,289, and grand theft auto from 696 to 582.
One category increased during the pandemic…which was aggravated assault. Crime analysts say this is because everyone was on lockdown and locked inside their homes. Therefore, domestic violence increased.
The numbers for the aforementioned timeframe indicate an 8.9 percent drop in crime rate during the pandemic.
For Marion County and Municipal offense data during the pandemic, between January and December of 2020, the crime rates are as follows:
In Florida, from January to December 2020, the overall murder rate, despite the lockdown, still increased by 14.7 percent from 2019.
Top 10 most dangerous in Florida:
5. Palm Beach
6. St. Petersburg
8. Fort Lauderdale
It should also be noted that the UCR for Marion County does not include crimes inside the city limits and only the crime in areas patrolled by the sheriff’s office. Moreover, the percentages do not include a vast array of crimes that occurred in Marion County, such as drug offenses, prostitution, DUI arrests, etc. In reality, and statistically, the crime rate in Marion County is much higher.
FDLE also stated that the crime rate statistics included on the UCR are only as good as the information reported to them by the local law enforcement agency.