Sheriff Walt McNeil recently talked with Preston Scott, the host of The Morning Show and discussed the recent crime reports, clearance rates, and the implementation of crime reduction strategies.
Sheriff McNeil briefly mentioned the reopening of the sheriff’s office within the courthouse. The location had been closed since the start of COVID-19 and as of July 1, 2021, it has reopened.
On the Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime report, the Sheriff explained that Leon County’s crime rate decreased by 20% during 2020 and said that “we are making progress.” Overall, Leon County’s crime has diminished by about 50% over the last five years.
The Sheriff was asked why he thought there has been a decrease in arrests over the last year, and in the first five months of 2021. The average arrests have recently averaged around 600 a month, down from 900 a month in the first five months in 2019.
McNeal asserted that the pandemic certainly played a role in the decreasing arrest rate. He also stated that the Leon County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO), Tallahassee Police Department (TPD), and the Florida Highway Patrol are working together and are all doing a great job dealing with cases. However, he expects there will be an uptick in crime during the summer months, especially burglary, as people begin to vacation and leave their homes.
The Sheriff also addressed the clearance rate statistics.
A clearance rate is the number of cases which are solved, the Sheriff continued to say that Leon County Sheriff’s Office is averaging 28% and the states average is around 25%. TPD’s clearance rate is around 19%, however they see more cases than LCSO.
The Sheriff further explained their goal is to solve at least 20%-30% of cases, which is often difficult as many of the cases are burglary with little to no evidence to go on.
The Sheriff commented on manpower to assist citizens and respond to calls, specifically discussing calls that are not an active crime.
He said they have enough staff for the call volume and that his deputies are good about responding to all of their calls. However, he is currently looking into “how much quality time the deputies have” in the field trying to resolve the calls they are responding to.
Sheriff McNeil spoke about the Worship With Me Program and what makes it a crime reduction strategy.
He contended, “one of the things we know, is a kid that does not have an anchor in their life, often finds themselves in the criminal justice system.” He explained that they are asking churches in our community to take two children that are identified by the LCSO, who may be at risk, and have them attend two services. He continued, “we have been doing the program for about a year and a half and we hope we have the success that we saw prior to COVID,” as the initiative is reignited.
Sheriff McNeal briefly commented on the 40th anniversary of the School Resource Deputy program. They are working with the Superintendent to keep the program alive. McNeal asserted the program has been a great asset to the community.
Finally, the Sheriff addressed the city’s initiative to revitalize the Frenchtown area.
He explained some years ago there were a few particular housing projects that LCSO and TPD spent some 70% of their resources responding to calls. He said, “it never made any sense to take all of the people who are poor and stack them on top of each other and think you’ll have good outcomes.” Eventually one of the buildings were torn down and since the redevelopment the number of calls to the area have drastically reduced. The Sheriff stressed, “we need to change the dynamic of the housing complexes and how they are configured.”
The Sheriff ended the interview discussing the opportunity they have to hopefully impact nearly 120 kids in the Frenchtown area by introducing Boy Scouts of America and other mentoring programs. He stated the cause is worthy and “it will take a human investment and time.”