Florida's crime rate sank to a four-decade low in 2010, Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday.
There were 4,105 crimes reported for every 100,000 residents in 2010, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That's a drop of 7 percent from the year before and the lowest crime rate on record since 1971.
In 2010 the total number of violent crimes (murders, assaults, robberies and forcible sex crimes) fell 10 percent while property crimes (burglaries and auto thefts) dipped 6 percent. The data are culled from 410 police agencies statewide.
"The numbers are certainly encouraging," St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon said. "But we still have work to do."
Though crime was down, it was as devastating as ever. Last year, two Tampa police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty. Three St. Petersburg officers have been shot and killed on the job this year.
In fact, while murder dropped statewide and nationally in 2010, it rose in three Tampa Bay counties: Hernando (from four to nine deaths), Hillsborough (56 to 65 deaths) and Pinellas (27 to 35 deaths). Only Pasco County saw a decrease (12 to 10 deaths).
Murder is traditionally known as the toughest crime to prevent.
"I've been asked, how do you prevent a homicide?" Hillsborough sheriff's Col. Albert Frost said. "I don't think anyone knows the answer to that. In most of your homicides, the victim and suspect know each other in some fashion."
Some of Tampa Bay's biggest law enforcement agencies saw the biggest drops in crime: The St. Petersburg Police Department (down 19 percent), the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office (down 16 percent) and the Tampa Police Department (down 12 percent last year and 62 percent in the past eight years).
All three agencies practice different versions of what is known nationally as "data-driven" policing. The basics are the same: track crimes as they occur, identify crime trends and criminals quicker and respond faster.
"We take the worst of the worst," Frost said. "We've learned that those are the ones driving crime up."
Crime fell despite years of budget cuts. Pinellas Sheriff Jim Coats, who has had to cut 400 sworn positions in four years and is now down to 1,500 deputies, doubts that trend can continue.
"We're at what we call the water line," Coats said. "We can't sustain any more reductions."