The Polk County Sheriff’s Office reported that crime in the first six months of the year is down 5.44 percent over the same time period of last year. And while the crime rate in Bartow is up, the 2.3 percent is 12 crimes.
In Bartow in the first six months of this year there were 531 reported crimes, according to the Uniform Crime Report prepared by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That compares with 519 the year before. By comparison to the last few years, during the first six months of 2011, there were 559 offenses and in 2010 there were 586.
“This is the first year we’ve gone up in many years,” said Michelle Jordan, who has been doing statistics for the Bartow Police Department for 14 years.
Also, according to Jordan, most of the crimes are in larceny, shoplifting and bicycle offenses — in other words, non-violent crimes.
To illustrate, in Bartow the number of larcenies in the first six months went up from 2012 to 2013 from 334 to 401. Shoplifting, which is in that category, went from 48 to 59 and bicycles went from 20 to 23. By comparasion to the number of crimes countywide, the number of larcenies came down from 2,544 to 2,450.
Being a smaller town may have some part in it but for Lyn Bryan, who does a lot of work with crime statistics for Bartow, there’s something more to it.
“Bartow is unique,” she said. “Most people who live here have been here a long time and look out for each other. People who live in my neighborhood do that. In bigger towns, people may not be always looking out for you. In some neighborhoods, we don’t have a formal crime watch but people do what crime watches do.”
Also she said much of the crime that occurs in Bartow is the result of people not necessarily taking care of their things as they should.
“For the year for the burglaries into vehicles, in 75 percent of them the door is not locked,” she said.
She said the same is true with houses. Most burglaries happen during the day. People can monitor over weeks when a house is generally empty for a long period of time and use that.
“They look for an easy way in,” she siad. “Lock, lock, lock it up. Use good lighting and make it look like someone is home during the day. That’s our biggest problem.”
In terms of burglaries in Bartow, the numbers went down 106 to 63 in the first six months, the UCR reports show.
In robbery, the numbers went down from 11 to seven. In forcible fondling, the numbers went down from nine to three. In Forcible rape the numbers went up from one to three and in murder, the number stayed the same at one.
In the forcible rape category, Jordan pointed out the FDLE changed its reporting this year where it had physical sodomy under a separate category that is combined with forcible rape now.
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office, which generally doesn’t cover crime in Bartow, but does in Fort Meade and some other cities which don’t have their own police departments, the crime rate, which is the number of crimes per 100 residents, in 2012 was 2.48. This is the lowest crime rate ever measured in the Polk County Sheriff’s Office jurisdiction, breaking the previous record low of 2.70 crimes per 100 from 2011. Reliable crime statistics in Polk County started in 1971, when the crime rate was recorded at 4.16 crimes per 100.
Since 1997, the crime rate in Polk County has fallen by 62.9 percent, the UCR reports.
The UCR statistics reported were 267 fewer crimes overall in the first six months of 2013 than in the first six months of 2012 in the Sheriff’s Office primary jurisdiction. There were 4,645 crimes in the first half of 2013, as compared to 4,912 crimes in the first half of 2012. Compared to two years ago (2011), crime in the first six months of 2013 is down 13 percent.
According to the UCR comparison, the number of non-violent crimes went down 312 crimes — from 4,340 crimes to 4,028 crimes, a reduction of 7.19 percent. Non-violent crimes include burglaries, larcenies, and motor vehicle thefts.
Homicides were down 70 percent from 10 to three homicides comparing the two semi-annual statistics.
“The statistics don’t lie, crime continues to decline in unincorporated Polk County. There are several key reasons for this success, including our valuable partnerships with the communty; our proactive approach to solving crime trends before they become an issue; and the fact that we work hard every day to prove to the people of Polk County that we are committed to excellence,” said Sheriff Grady Judd.