In 2018, “our total crime index of 416 offenses is the lowest it has been since we began reporting in 1984,” said Police Chief Robert Vincent in his annual report to Gulfport City Council at their regular meeting on Tuesday, February 5.
The percentage of crimes solved or “clearance rate” in 2018 also set a record, he said. Police solved 30.7 percent of all crimes reported. Typically, nationwide, the rate is 20 to 25 percent.
The 2018 statistics are “phenomenal,” said Vincent.
“I did not come here to brag,” he said to council. “This is not me. This is the result of work that is represented by the people who live here, the people who work here, the people who own businesses here and by you all for allowing us the resources that we need to get it done. We all should be proud.”
“We are,” said Mayor Sam Henderson.
Each February, the Gulfport Police Department submits statistics to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) regarding crimes reported by citizens known as “part one offenses” like robberies and burglaries compared to those discovered by officers such as vice and narcotics. These data are known as the Uniform Crime Report (UCR).
The FDLE then reports the UCR statistics to the FBI for further analysis and archiving.
“When I draw comparisons, I don’t draw comparisons with Largo or Bellaire or St. Pete Beach or Miami or New York,” said Vincent. “I draw comparisons with the city that surrounds us. Consistently, Gulfport is much lower than the crime rate in St. Petersburg. What happens there drives what happens here.”
St. Petersburg has not released their 2018 crime data, yet, said Vincent.
“For 2017, our overall crime rate of roughly 37 crimes per 1,000 residents compares to roughly 51 crimes per 1,000 residents in the city of St. Petersburg,” he said.
The five-year trend for both person and property crimes is down, said Vincent.
“One chart in the report goes back 18 years with a trend line on it so you can see that since 2000, the trend has been going down,” he said. “This is a good thing. It is exceptional.”
Henderson asked, “What accounts for the drop in crime?”
Compared to five years ago, the police “have been very active in getting the community involved in Crime Watch” groups, said Vincent. And, participation in the Citizens Police Academy “is through the roof. We used to beg people to come. Now, we have to turn people away and hold multiple sessions a year. There are many more people who want to be involved. That is what is driving that.”
Henderson then wanted to know the chief’s main recommendation for making the crime rate drop even more.
“Lock it up,” said Vincent. “Almost all vehicle burglaries and thefts are because they were left unlocked.”
Request for State Funding Made for PYCC Storm-Water Pipes
On February 1, for the second and final phase of an ongoing project in the Pasadena Yacht and Country Club (PYCC) area regarding the replacement of failing storm-water pipes due to age, the city emailed a request for funding from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for $700,013. The deadline for submitting requests was February 3.
According to city documentation, Gulfport’s share would total $100,000 or 12.5 percent of the total cost of the project, which is $800,013.
The city also appealed to Florida Senator Darryl Rouson and State Representative Jennifer Webb to facilitate the funding request through the legislature.
If state funding is approved, the goals of reducing flooding and washouts in the neighborhood along with improving the water quality downstream in Boca Ciega Bay would be achieved, said City Manager Jim O’Reilly. The estimated completion date for the project is June 30, 2020.
“This is a major project that funnels water from Gulfport Boulevard under the golf course between a small area of residential homes and into a creek that flows out into Boca Ciega Bay,” said Councilmember Dan Liedtke, who lives in PYCC. “It had old corrugated metal pipe and we’ve replaced half of it located in the residential area with concrete pipe to protect the homes. Now, we still have to replace the area from the homes to Gulfport Boulevard.
We took care of the worst part first because there were homes in danger of collapsing. The old pipe wasn’t holding water – it was washing dirt away underneath it. It was a hazard.”