NEW PORT RICHEY — Statistics released Tuesday say crime within the Pasco County Sheriff's Office jurisdiction is the lowest it's been in 17 years. Robberies in 2011 were down 18.7 percent from 2010. For burglaries, a 6.5 percent decrease. Aggravated assault, down 6 percent. Shoplifting, down 13.4 percent. Motor vehicle theft, down 4.2 percent.
Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said he is pleased and very proud of the Sheriff's Office staff. But he also said statistics "ebb and flow" and aren't what he solely bases the agency's success upon.
"Unless (citizens) feel safe in their homes, these statistics don't mean anything," Nocco said.
The 2011 statistics said violent crime decreased 7.9 percent and nonviolent crime decreased 3.1 percent. Combined, the Sheriff's Office said the number of crimes in 2011 decreased 3.5 percent from the previous year.
If the county's population is factored into the statistics, there was a 9.2 percent decrease in crime in 2011. Pasco Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said the statistics are the lowest since 1995, which is as far back as the agency can compare numbers. But the number benefited from an increase in the county's population. According to the statistics compiled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the county's population increased by 25,343 people from 2010 to 2011.
The crimes that did show an increase in 2011 were murders: 11 last year compared to 8 in 2010. Forcible sex offenses also increased slightly to 136, up from 131 in 2010.
Nocco said statistics are "another tool for us that we utilize" in crime prevention.
"We are happy to see crime is trending down," Nocco said. He said he views success as families feeling safe in their communities — and criminals feeling unsafe.
"When criminals leave the county … that is success," Nocco said.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6229.