The Ocala Police Department, with good reason, is concerned and displeased over a recent article that depicted Ocala as being worse than Detroit for violent crimes.
The Miami Herald, in a November 15 article, reported that Ocala “notched the highest volume of firearm-related incidents in the country, overall, at 28.9 incidents per 10,000 people, according to Gun Violence Archive data comparing a four year period of 2014 to 2018, and studied by researchers at Security.Org.”
The Herald wrote, “Detroit followed Ocala and St. Louis came in third among the 10 major cities with the most firearm-related incidents.”
“The Ocala numbers — 26 incidents in 2014 to 141 in 2018 — marks more than a 442% increase, the most in the country, according to the data. No other Florida city ranked among the Top 10 in that incidents category,” according to the Miami Herald.
While crime has in fact risen to an all-time high for Marion County as a whole, the information perpetuated by the Herald, as pointed out by OPD, is incorrect. The report released by Gun Violence Archive shows 151 of the addresses where the incidents occurred are not even in the city of Ocala, they are in the county.
OPD wrote, “Of the 491 incidents recorded for 2014-2018 in the Gun Violence Archive’s survey: 151 of the listed incidents occurred in the county; 259 in the City; and 81 addresses were unverifiable or “bad”. Of the 259 city addresses used in the survey, 27 of them did not include a date of occurrence.”
According to The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data, the City of Ocala has seen a small percentage of an increase in violent offenses with a firearm. The report shows a 15.71% increase in violent offenses with a firearm from 2018.
This is a far cry from a 422 percent increase.
For Detroit, in 2017, there were 267 murders. The violent crime rate of 2,057 per 100,000 was the second-highest in the nation after St. Louis and roughly ten times the average rate of the suburban counties of metro Detroit which had violent crime rates below the national average of 394 per 100,000.
For Marion County, murder dropped by one — from 18 in 2016 to 17 for 2017.
Let’s take a closer look.
In 2013, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office reported to the media that Marion County’s crime rate had dropped 5.3 percent from the previous year. It was reported even lower in 2014. However, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, those claims were also false.
During a phone conversation, FDLE told Ocala Post that the crime rates and statistics are only as good as the agency reporting them. In other words, the reports provided by MCSO to the FDLE, at that time, had been manipulated and was missing important data used to properly calculate crime rates.
After discussing these crime rates with FDLE, it was determined that the crime reduction was only half true. Additionally, the reported 5.3 percent drop only pertained to the portion of Marion County patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department. According to FDLE, the statistics did not include the crimes that had taken place within the inner city. Moreover, the percentage did not include the vast majority of crimes that occurred in Marion County in 2014, such as drug offenses, prostitution, DUI arrests, etc.
In 2014, statistics showed that Marion County was listed as number 30 out of 67 counties for most dangerous. Ocala was number 17 in the state of Florida for most violent cities. Orlando comes in at number two and ironically, Miami Beach is number one. Again, a far cry from “the highest volume of firearm-related incidents in the country.”
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 – the total number of index crimes known to law enforcement.
In September 2014, OPD Police Chief Greg Graham, in a letter to the public, stated, “We are facing a crisis in the City of Ocala and Marion County that requires fervent prayer and your presence to show unity and help in this senseless crime spree that is affecting our communities.”
Following this, looking to be proactive, OPD announced that they were creating a task force that would target troubled areas of Ocala. The Department sent squads of officers out in the areas where violent crimes have been occurring in order to make contact with, and identify, persons of interest in the violent crimes currently under investigation, prevent more incidents from occurring, and to show a marked presence in the community.
OPD said, “The Major Crimes and Patrol Bureaus are actively working operations and task forces to bring this number back down and combat some of the trends in violence Ocala has been experiencing lately.”
Even though Marion County and Ocala have seen an increase in crime and Ocala has risen to the top 20 for most dangerous cities in Florida, it is nowhere near the level of violence that takes place in Detroit on a daily basis.
Furthermore, when calculating crime rates for the City of Ocala, a person cannot include addresses where crimes have occurred in the county because OPD does not patrol those areas.
Marion County as a whole currently has the highest incarceration rate in the state.
FDLE says that the overall crime rate in Florida has decreased by six percent.