JASPER — While the numbers can sometimes be misleading in small counties, Hamilton County Sheriff Harrell Reid won’t complain about the county’s crime rate falling in 2018.
According to the Uniform Crime Reports released last week by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 347 crimes were committed in the county in 2018 compared to 407 the previous year. That was a 14.7 percent fall.
“I think it shows that our guys are working hard to reduce the crime in Hamilton County and we’re going to continue to enforce the law and try to make it even better for our folks,” Reid said, while admitting that one or two crimes can make a big difference in the crime rate for a county such as Hamilton County, with a population of 14,621.
For example, there was only one murder in the county in 2018 compared to two in 2017. Likewise, there were just three rapes as compared to eight.
Those helped make for a 35.7 percent fall in the county’s violent crime rate.
“When you’re dealing with smaller counties, a couple instances can make it a lot worse or a lot better,” Reid added. “But I think overall it reflects that the we are working hard to get criminals off the street and trying to keep them off the street.”
Crime wasn’t just down in Hamilton County as a whole either. The White Springs Police Department handled just 27 offenses, a drop of 27 percent from 2017, and the Jasper Police Department handled 85 offenses, a 2.3 percent drop.
The Jennings Police Department, meanwhile, had a drop of more than 60 percent in the offenses it handled according to Chief Vincent Robinson, with the numbers dropping across the board.
The numbers in the FDLE report, showed, the rate rising by 1100 percent with 12 offenses in 2018 compared to just one in 2017.
“Yeah, I wish it was 1 offense,” Robinson said about 2017.
Rather, Robinson said there was one robbery, two aggravated assaults, two burglaries, 11 larcenies and one motor vehicle theft that year.
Overall, the 347 offenses in 2018 were the second fewest in the county in the past 10 years behind only the 311 offenses in 2016.
Not only did the county’s crime rate drop, but its clearance rate went up with 36.3 percent of the cases cleared, an increase of nearly 6 percent.
The state’s crime rate fell 9 percent, marking the 48th consecutive year that Florida has seen a drop in its crime rate.
“Florida’s low crime rate is no accident,” Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter, the Florida Sheriffs Association president, said in a release. “It is the result of hard work by our deputies, with the support from Florida’s strong public safety laws.
“A major reason we enjoy a 48-year low in the crime rate today is because criminals are serving the time they deserve and not creating more crime victims by receiving a ‘get out of jail free’ card. Florida’s ‘Truth in Sentencing’ laws have once again contributed to keeping our residents and visitors of the Sunshine State safe.”