Numbers presented at the Charlotte County Public Safety Coordinating Council meeting show overall arrest numbers were down in 2019.
In 2018, there were 6,423 arrests, but last year saw just 5,527 — a decrease of approximately 14%. The average daily inmate population also fell from 691 in 2018 to 641 last year.
“Our average daily population was 641, which is quite a significant decrease from what it was the year prior, which means that obviously some of our diversion programs are working,” said Capt. Melissa Turney.
Turney said the length of stay for inmates was also down, using both the state’s formula and the formula the county has used for the last 20 years.
“For either formula, looking at it, the average length of stay has decreased, so overall I think we’ve had a successful year.”
The biggest difference in arrests came in the month of July, with 664 arrests in 2018 but only 500 last year. December 2019 had a record low number of arrests at just 398.
Last year, Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell started a new pre-arrest diversion program. Rather than face criminal charges, the program allows first time offenders of qualifying misdemeanors to be issued a civil citation and complete a program involving community service, fines and classes.
Since June 1, 2019, 46 individuals were referred to the program, but 11 of those were rejected. Thirty-five people entered into the program, 28 of which have completed it, and seven who are still active, according to CCSO spokesperson Claudette Bennett.
The Sheriff’s Mental Health Unit has now also been in place approximately one year, with the purpose of connecting individuals with community resources and diverting those who need mental health services from the criminal justice system.
Drug-related charges made up 48% of all criminal charges in the last quarter of the year. Inmates who cannot bond out of jail made up 52% of inmates.
Public Defender Toby Oonk noted at this week’s meeting the ‘no bond’ number seems high and asked how that compares with other counties.
However, Turney said each county does their statistics slightly differently, so the jail would have to request that information.
There were more female inmates in the jail for the last quarter of 2019 than 2018, but the number has been decreasing monthly from an average 152.3 in September to 126.6 in December.