From 2009 to 2013, public documents show that when gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum served on the Tallahassee City Commission, the Tallahassee City Commission repeatedly ignored pleas from law enforcement for help with a festering crime problem. Gillum served as a city commissioner from 2003 to 2014 and was elected mayor in 2014.
Documents also show that in 2013, Gillum and the Tallahassee City Commission declined to approve a Tallahassee Police Department request for five new police officer positions in fiscal year 2014 to address the crime problem.
Following these denials for public safety assistance, Leon County led the state of Florida in the crime rate in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.
However, another even more troubling result during this period was the dramatic and consistent increase in the murder rate in Tallahassee, which occurred not long after the Tallahassee Police Department made the Tallahassee City Commission aware of a problem.
For example, from 2002 to 2009 the average murder rate per 100,000 citizens in Tallahassee was 4.6. During this period there were 63 murders, an average of 7.9 murders per year.
However from 2010 to 2017 the average murder rate increased 52 percent to 7.0 murders per 100,000 citizens. During this period there were 104 murders, an average of 13 murders per year. Source Crime Stats.
The chart below compares the 3-year moving average of murder rates in the state of Florida and the City of Tallahassee from 2002 to 2017. The graphic representation shows the dramatic change in murder rates that began in 2009. This was the same year when law enforcement officials began to sound the alarm.
The Tallahassee murder rate began climbing in 2009 and surpassed the slightly declining murder rate of the state of Florida in 2011.
The comparison also shows how the City of Tallahassee murder rate continues to be a problem. Since 2000 the City of Tallahassee’s highest murder rate (8.97) occurred in 2017 with 17 homicides. The second highest rate (8.51) occurred in 2015 with 16 murders.
Also, the 2017 Tallahassee murder rate (8.97) was higher than Miami (7.55) , Orlando (8.22), St. Petersburg (7.58), Gainesville (3.08), and Fort Lauderdale (8.38). Tallahassee’s 2017 murder rate was lower than the rate reported by Tampa (10.45) and Jacksonville (12.2).
Ignoring Pleas from Law Enforcement
The city’s annual budget documents show that Andrew Gillum and the Tallahassee City Commission were given warnings about crime problems from 2009 to 2013.
City of Tallahassee data shows that the number of sworn officer positions has declined from 359 in 2008 to 355 officers in 2014. The number of patrol officers has declined from 216 in 2010 to 214 in 2014.
During this same period, 2008 to 2012, calls for service increased from 137,076 to 173, 484.
During the 2010 budget cycle, police officials informed upper management and the city commission that staffing was an issue.
“Over the last several years, the Police Department’s staffing level has not kept pace with population growth, workload, or staffing increases recommended by two (2) in-depth staffing studies.” Source 2010.
The report referenced above and completed in the early 2000’s by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), concluded that the department was approximately fifty patrol officers understaffed to meet a 50% goal of proactive time for patrol officers.
After the study, between 2003 and 2008, the City added 13 officers, but since 2008 the number of sworn positions has actually declined.
During the 2011 budget cycle, the police department reported that:
“even though the number of reported crimes decreased during 2009, the number of calls for service increased 4.9% between 2008 and 2009. Over the last five years the total number of calls for service increased over 11%. As a result of these calls for service, officers write approximately 70,000 reports annually.” Source 2011.
During the 2012 budget cycle, the police department informed upper management that:
“the number of reported crimes increased slightly during 2010, but the number of calls for service increased dramatically between 2009 and 2010. Over the last five years the total number of calls for service increased over 12.5%. As a result of these calls for service, officers exceeded 72,000 reports for the first time.” Source 2012.
During the 2013 budget cycle, the police department reported that:
“data obtained from the FBI’s 2011 Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report, Tallahassee’s crime index (total of violent and property crimes reported) has increased from 10,381 in FY10 to 11,024 in FY11. This represents an overall increase of 6.2%. Along with the number of reported UCR crimes increasing during 2011, the number of calls for service increased 1.0% between 2010 and 2011. In fact, the annual calls for service have increased from 41,746 in FY07 to 156,737 in FY11.” Source 2013.
During the 2014 budget cycle, the police department asked for more police officers. The request stated:
“The addition of five police officers and one sergeant will aid in reducing the response times for priority one and priority two calls for service. In FY12, the Police Department’s average response times for priority one and priority two calls were 6.5 minutes and 9.3 minutes respectively. The Department’s goal for priority one and priority two calls is 5.0 minutes and 9.0 minutes respectively.” Source 2014A.
The Tallahassee City Commission failed to approve the request for the five police officer positions. Source 2014B.