Escambia Sees Overall Drop In Crime
Crime in Escambia County dropped 16 percent overall during the first six months of 2016, according to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. But the decline was not unanimous.
The semi-annual report shows a 15 percent reduction in violent crimes like rape and aggravated assault, it also revealed a 16 percent drop in crimes involving property, such as burglary and larceny, compared to the first half of 2015.
Sheriff David Morgan attributes the overall reduction to the “citizen buy-in” of ECSO’s crime prevention efforts, the continued professionalism of the Sheriff’s Office and its officers, and a continued downward trend that began in 2009, the year Morgan first took office.
“Your government and your programs, etc. move with the speed of a glacier, basically,” said Morgan. “So to try to overcome things that have been that long in coming, it unfortunately takes about that length of time for the corrections to also start kicking in.”
Rape, aggravated assault, domestic violence, burglary and larceny are all down from last year. However, there was a slight jump in two major categories. Robberies were up by seven incidents, and homicides increased from five to seven. Morgan calls murders “crimes of passion” and says they’re virtually impossible to predict.
“It has to do with the violent nature of society; it’s normally crime-driven,” says Morgan. “Rarely is it a random victim. It has to do with drug dealing or a crime in progress. It’s a societal issue, not a law enforcement issue.”
Another factor in the drops, says Morgan, is the number of neighborhood watch groups that have gone from 13 to the current 150 across Escambia County.
One area of which Morgan is proudest is a 14% percent drop in domestic violence cases in mid-2016 compared to the same time in 2015. A major factor is a community outreach partnership with the University of West Florida and Favor House, a shelter for domestic abuse victims.
But, Morgan cautions that crime statistics cannot be comparative, because communities are like fingerprints and snowflakes: no two are exactly alike in areas such as education, graduation rates, and median income.
“I can’t look to Santa Rosa or Okaloosa [Counties], or across the border to Alabama, and say, ‘Look at us, we’re so much better than you are,’” says Morgan. “What we will continue to do in the coming years is to further embrace community outreach, [and the] continued professionalization of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.”
A goal-within-that-goal is to have all ECSO officers complete at least a two-year college degree. Morgan points to data that indicates more educated officers lead to fewer citizen complaints and use of force.
The new figures showing the crime drops are out as David Morgan seeks a third term as Sheriff, against three challengers in the August 30th Republican primary. He was asked about the timing.
“I would ask [detractors] to go to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement,” Morgan says. “Everything that we’ve reported is a matter of public record.”
Morgan says better times are ahead for Escambia County, adding that the new crime numbers are an indication that both the county and ECSO have turned the corner.