BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Sheriff's Office announced Friday that its crime rate dipped in 2011 to its lowest point in 15 years.
Last year, officials said, 3,156 crimes were committed per 100,000 county residents. That was 2.8 percent less than in 2010. For the most part, crime has fallen steadily in Hernando since 2002. The trend is consistent with many areas throughout the country.
The figures do not include crimes committed in Hernando handled by the Brooksville Police Department or the Florida Highway Patrol, so it's unclear how the overall county crime rate changed from 2010 to 2011.
Sheriff's officials also announced that their agency cleared 321 more crimes last year than the year before. Authorities said the clearance rate increased by 5.6 percent compared to 2010, and it exceeded the state average.
"I am pleased with our efforts to aggressively respond to criminal activity throughout the year," said Sheriff Al Nienhuis. "We do this by investigating each crime to the fullest extent practical. This method has resulted in a consistently higher clearance and arrest rate than in the past and the lowest crime rate in over 15 years."
Sex crimes took the most precipitous drop in 2011, falling 42.1 percent. Theft of motor vehicle parts decreased by 18.9 percent, robbery by 16.9 percent and violent crime by 16.7 percent. Shoplifting, motor vehicle thefts and burglaries increased slightly.
Officials also reported that the murder rate dropped by 11.1 percent between 2010 and 2011, but that number does not include the death of Henry F. McCain. Brittany Miles, authorities said, led deputies on a chase before driving a pickup truck through U.S. 19 and County Line Road and slamming into the 66-year-old motorcyclist. McCain died at the scene.
Because the Highway Patrol handled the case, the Sheriff's Office did not count it in its numbers. Countywide, nine people were murdered in 2010, and nine were murdered in 2011.
John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.