TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The latest crime report shows Florida's crime rate has dropped to its lowest level since the state started gathering statistics in 1971.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey issued the 2011 Crime Report Monday. It shows Florida's crime rate dropped eight-tenths of a point compared to 2010.
The rate for violent crimes, such as murder, robbery and aggravated assault, was down 3.7 percent. Non-violent crime, including burglary, larceny and car theft, was up four-tenths of a point.
Bailey says the state is safer today, but that accomplishment has come at a high cost with the deaths of police officers.
"2011 proved to be a bad year with seven law enforcement officers and one correctional officer killed due to criminal acts and three law enforcement officers killed accidentally but in the line of duty."
The Trayvon Martin case intensified scrutiny on the number of justifiable homicides in Florida after murder defendant George Zimmerman claimed he shot Martin in self defense.
Bailey said the number of justifiable homicides in Florida increased in 2011 compared to the previous year.
"Overall justifiable homicides increased from 96 in 2010 to 118 in 2011, but let me break that down. Seventy felons were killed by police officers compared to 56 in 2010 and 48 felons were killed by private citizens in 2011 compared to 40 in 2010. So you saw an increase of about 25 percent more law-enforcement-officer justifiable homicide and an increase of about 20 percent for civilian justifiable homicides."
Willie Meggs of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association praised state lawmakers for creating tougher crime laws over the past 15 years. He says those laws are making a difference.
"I believe that we're winning this war on crime because Florida has eventually and finally gotten serious about doing something about crime. The Legislature has been great. Our governor and past governors have signed legislation that has given us the tools that we need to accomplish the tasks that we have."
As one example Meggs said Florida's stricter sentencing rules, requiring prison inmates to serve 85 percent of their sentences, has helped lower the crime rate.
First Coast News