TALLAHASSEE — Florida's crime rate dropped 6.5 percent in 2012, including a significant decrease in thefts, robberies and burglaries, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner released Thursday.
The overall number of crimes fell by 43,536, or 5.7 percent, to 725,944 total. The crime rate fell by a higher percentage because the state's population grew.
It's the lowest crime rate since the state began compiling the statistics.
"We've been keeping these numbers for 42 years, and this is the lowest it's been since the kickoff day 42 years ago," said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey.
In Pinellas County, all crimes decreased with the exception of vehicle theft, which inched up 3.1 percent. Violent crime in Pinellas dropped by 9.4 percent, including a 17 percent drop in murders, a 3.5 dip in forcible sex crimes and an 11.5 percent decrease in robberies. Nonviolent crimes also dropped by 4.7 percent, including a 9.3 percent decrease in burglaries and a 3.4 percent dip in larcenies.
The statewide numbers continue a trend. The volume of crimes committed in Florida has dropped every year since 2008, when there were nearly 158,000 more crimes committed than last year.
Bailey attributes the continued drop to improvements in technology and information sharing that has seen a sharp rise in the number of DNA and fingerprint matches, saying solving more crimes means there are fewer criminals on the loose.
"The professionalism of law enforcement in the state is definitely on the up," said Bailey, who believes the work has caught the attention of potential criminals. "That community knows we're doing a better job, and that I think is a deterrent as well."
Among the bad news in the report was a 2.4 percent increase in the number of murders statewide from 985 to 1,009. The total number of sex crimes also increased by 265, or 2.7 percent, to 10,145. While there were slightly fewer rapes, there was an increase in forced sodomy and forcible fondling.
Combined, there were nearly 39,000 fewer thefts, robberies and burglaries. There were also nearly 3,000 fewer aggravated assaults, and the number of stolen cars dropped from nearly 40,000 to just more than 37,000.
The news is also good for Gov. Rick Scott, who is seeking re-election next year.
"Having a low crime rate is important to my goal of creating jobs and opportunities for Florida families, and making our state the best state in the nation to live, work or raise a family," Scott said in a press release.