By ANNE EASKER

Staff Writer

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement released statewide crime statistics Monday.

Florida’s crime rate fell by 9.0%, with a 7.4% decrease of total index crimes.

Index crimes, used to calculate the crime rate, include murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft.

Here what that looks like locally:

Sarasota County: Crime increased by 0.7%. The crime rate per 100,000 population was 2,075.9.

Which crimes are up? Murder increased from eight to 10; larceny rose from 6,013 to 6,141; and motor vehicle theft increased from 325 to 407.

Which crimes are down? Rapes dropped from 82 to 79; robbery dropped from 166 to 155; aggravated assault fell from 715 to 703, and burglary decreased from 1,204 to 1,076.

In the unincorporated county... Index crimes dropped by 5.9%. The crime rate per 100,000 population was 1,763.0.

In Venice... crime went up by 4.5%. The crime rate per 100,000 population was 1,527.6.

In North Port... crime went up by 45.1%. The crime rate per 100,000 population was 1,844.8.

Still, that’s less than the county rate and on similar footing as Charlotte County and Punta Gorda.

“While we see the value in looking back, these numbers are six months to a year old,” North Port Police spokesperson Josh Taylor said.

Taylor said the department is efforting to lower crime rates “with new philosophies and tools to tackle today’s concerns,” noting the department appreciates residents reporting local crimes.

“They know we will look into them and work for justice,” he said. “Some of the increases can be attributed to just a few incidents and just a few idiots. Often times they are domestic in nature and not random.”

Taylor noted four homicides that took place early in 2018 but none so far this year.

“We are a very safe community. Despite some recent increases, we have nearly half as much crime as some cities right here in Sarasota County. We also have the highest clearance rate in the county,” he said.

Taylor said the department is “always looking to improve,” noting since the beginning of Police Chief Todd Garrison’s job in the second half of 2018, the department has been reorganized and added dozens of officers — along with new teams like traffic unit, intel division, special enforcement team and others, Taylor said.

“We’re confident the improvements are making an impact and look forward to the next report,” he said.

Charlotte County: Index crimes dropped by 8.3%, while the total crime rate dropped by 11%. The crime rate per 100,000 population was 1,378.8.

Which crimes are up?

The only index crime to increase was murder, up from one to two.

Which crimes are down?

Rape decreased from 33 to 32; robberies fell from 28 to 19; aggravated assault decreased from 314 to 308; burglary dropped from 391 to 255; larceny decreased from 1,781 to 1,724; and motor vehicle thefts dropped from 127 to 114.

For unincorporated Charlotte County... the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office saw a 12.5% drop in index crime, with a crime rate of 1,333.1 per 100,000 population.

“The nature of crime and the threats to our community change rapidly,” said Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Katie Heck. “We practice intelligence-led policing, in which our deputies quickly develop strategies to address emerging crime and quality of life issues in our community. This decrease in crime, even as our population increases, reflects their dedication to the safety of residents and visitors in Charlotte County.”

For Punta Gorda... the Punta Gorda Police Department saw a 30.2% increase in crime. The crime rate per 100,000 population was 1,749.9.

Lt. Dylan Renz said the agency expected an increase in crime due to the city’s growth and annexation of commercial areas. Renz said 21% of all thefts for 2018 were reported at the newly annexed Walmart on Taylor Road.

“Prior to 2018, all those would have been in Charlotte County and not in the city,” he said. “That’s just an example of why something like that makes a huge difference. Those were crimes that were already occurring, just not in Punta Gorda until 2018.”

He noted while property crime increased, violent crime decreased from 16 to 11.

DeSoto County: Index crimes dropped by 9.4%. The crime rate per 100,000 population was 2,474.7. North Port

Staff Writer Tom Harmening contributed.

Email: anne.easker@yoursun.com

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