Often times people dismiss crime statistic comparisons involving Leon county because Tallahassee is a major college town. The argument is that characteristics of a college town can sometimes skew comparisons because of the presence of so many college students.
In fact, recently Florida State University Criminology Professor, Brian Stults, told the Tallahassee Democrat that the presence of a significant number of college students in a community can result in crime rankings that are “very misleading, so we should be careful not to overreact.”
Understanding the rationale of this argument, TR decided to compare UCR crime statistics over the last eight years in Alachua County (pop.257,062), home of Gainesville and a major college, with the crime numbers in Leon County (pop. 287,671).
The findings raise interesting questions.
But first, a sobering statistic.
Over the last three years, Alachua County has reported 10 murders. During that same period, Leon county has reported 50 murders.
Now the analysis.
In 2009 Alachua County had a higher crime rate than Leon County. Alachua County reported 5,004 crimes per 100,000 people during 2009 while Leon County reported 4,671 crimes per 100,000 people.
As with Alachua County, Leon County’s crime numbers were driven by city incidents.
As the graph below shows, since 2009 Alachua County’s crime rate has decreased 39.7% from a rate of 5,004 to 3,582 in 2016.
During the same period, the Leon County crime rate increased 21% from 4,671 to 5,655.
A deep dive into FDLE arrest statistics show that during this period Alachua County reported a higher arrest rate than Leon county.
From 2009 through 2012, Alachua County averaged an arrest rate of 7,600 per 100,000 people. Following this four year period, the crime rate fell from 5,004 to 3,739.
In contrast, from 2009 through 2012, Leon County’s arrest rate averaged 4,319 arrests per 100,000 people – approximately 40% less than Alachua County.
The crime rate in Leon County was relatively flat during this period. However, the arrest rate fell below 4,000 in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and the crime rate spiked to number one in the state of Florida for each year.
These findings should raise questions about the impact of students on the crime rate in Tallahassee. If the presence of a major university has a negative impact on crime stats, why does that impact not show up in Alachua County?
The findings should also raises questions about Tallahassee’s law enforcement strategy. With increasing crime, why are arrests down?