Florida State University criminologist Bill Bales knew Florida’s crime rate, like that of the nation, had been dropping for years but he had no idea just how much. Once he sat down to crunch the numbers he was shocked to discover how safe the state has become. Bales said, “I was astonished by the consistency of the decline and the magnitude of the decline.”
The decline was far from statistically insignificant. His results indicate that the level of safety of citizens and tourists in the state over the past 20 years has improved by a whopping 52%. What he labels a “remarkable” figure. His analysis indicated that crimes rates in Florida fell dramatically since the peak year of 1991 across all seven categories of crimes tracked by the FBI: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft.
What’s the reason for such a steep drop? Bales and other criminologist say there’s no one answer. A variety of factors such as state demographics, deployment of law enforcement resources, unemployment rates and poverty all likely played a part. The only significant correlation the study found was with increased imprisonment rates. He found that from 1980 to 2010, as crime rates went down, Florida’s prison population ballooned nearly 170 percent. However, he emphasizes that that alone does not explain the overall trend.
Another criminologist, James Austin from George Washington University, pointed out that in other states, such as New York, which has seen the nation’s sharpest decline in crime rates, prison populations have been shrinking as crime has dropped. Austin was clear that no study has shown imprisonment is the primary driver of crime rates. Thus, there’s no reason for legislators and law enforcement officers to step up their efforts to swell the prison population any further.
One problem that the study pointed out is one of public perception. Experts say the influence of the media, including highly publicized crime reports and television shows, skew the public’s view of the danger they face. The public is bombarded with stories of grisly crimes every day on television and in the newspapers. The truth is that the vast majority of Floridians are very safe and their chance of being the victim of crime is very, very small.
If you need a