Florida's crime rate dipped slightly in 2011, with a drop in the number of violent crimes offsetting increases in burglaries and larcenies, according to the annual crime statistics report released Monday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The total number of crimes tracked by the state agency dropped 0.1 percent, but the increase in population meant that the crime rate dropped 0.8 percent. Overall, violent crimes dropped by 3.7 percent to 98,183. That's 3,724 fewer violent crimes than the year before and nearly 33,000 fewer than 2007. Nonviolent crimes increased by 2,686 to 671,297, or 0.4 percent.
But the number of crimes compared to the state's population was the lowest it's been since the agency started tracking crime statistics 41 years ago. The agency tracks murders, forcible sex offenses, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, larcenies and motor vehicle thefts.
"We began tracking those crimes in 1971 and Floridians are safer today than at any other time since that date," said agency Commissioner Gerald Bailey.
Florida had 985 murders in 2011, a drop of two from the year before. Of those, 691 were committed with a firearm. Similarly, forcible sex offenses were nearly the same as the year before, with 9,886 reported in 2011, or six fewer than the year before. Aggravated assaults dropped by 5 percent.
At a time when there are arguments about whether Florida should repeal it's "stand your ground" self-defense law, Bailey said justifiable homicides committed by private citizens increase from 40 to 48 in 2011.
Bailey also noted that the number of domestic violence crimes have dropped 1.5 percent at a time when it's increasing elsewhere in the country. And that's despite a 65 percent increase in simple stalking in domestic cases, from 392 in 2010 to 647 last year.
"One thing that's happened is that our citizens, our public, are more aware of the stalking laws. They're more sensitive to stalkers whether they be cyber stalkers or physical stalkers. So that definitely plays a role in it," Bailey said.