published: Friday, November 09, 2012
Up close and personal:
Looking at crime in Lake
MILLARD K. IVES
| Staff Writer
Thieves have boosted the crime rate during the first half of the year across Lake County.
Burglaries jumped to 1,059 in Lake County between January and June of this year, compared to 867 during the same time period of 2011, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement semi-annual uniform crime report released Thursday.
Larcenies went up only by four, to 2,474 from 2,471.
The reported crimes includes the violent crimes of murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault as well as the non-violent crimes of burglary, larceny and vehicle theft. But it was burglaries and larcenies that comprised most of the reported crime in Lake County.
In Lake, reported crime increased by 3.5 percent, but it was Tavares that had the biggest jump in reported crime with a 116.9 hike.
And the city's burglaries and larcenies appear to be the culprit.
Burglaries more than quadrupled to 66 for the first six months of this year in Tavares, compared to
16 during the same time period last year, while larcenies almost doubled to 82 from 44.
Vehicle thefts jumped by only two, from eight to 10, while robberies remained at two.
The city's 116.9 increase was the biggest jump among crime reported to the 19 arresting agencies in Lake County, which includes
13 police departments and the Lake County Sheriff's Office. Stoney Lubins, chief of the 28-sworn officer Tavares Police Department, attributed the hike in numbers to a new and more "thorough and comprehensive" procedure of collecting data by a computer.
"It has not affected the quality of life here," said Joyce Ross, city spokeswoman.
It can be difficult comparing statistics between various municipalities in Lake County due to the various sizes. Leesburg, which had a 4.6 percent jump in crime, had the most larcenies, 389, for the first half of this year among reported among the county's police departments, although the number actually dropped from 425 during the same period last year.
Leesburg's 119 burglaries this year was also the most reported among the county's police departments, a jump from 78 during the first half of last year.
Police Capt. Rob Hicks said while Leesburg isn't the biggest city in Lake County, it has the largest police department with 72 sworn officers. Hicks attributed the high numbers of burglaries and larcenies to the uniqueness of being mostly an urban area, set in a rural county.
"It's the make-up of Leesburg," Hicks said.
Clermont, which is the most populated city in Lake County, had an 18.6 percent increase in crime, with 314 larcenies and 110 burglaries. During the first half of last year, it reported 296 larcenies but only 69 burglaries.
"With a population explosion, we have did remarkably well," said Capt. Jon Johnson, Clermont police spokesman.
The Lake County Sheriff's Office, which covers mostly the unincorporated part of the county and is the biggest law enforcement agency here with 131 deputies assigned to patrol, reported the largest number of burglaries and larcenies among the county's law enforcement agencies -- although its 478 burglaries during the first half of this year was up only three from last year and larcenies dropped from 996 to 951.
"As far as the crime rate going up on property crimes, it's very unfortunate but not really uncommon to see property crimes increase in a down economy, especially when the down economy stretches over several years," said Sgt. James Vachon, sheriff's spokesman.
But overall crime reported to the sheriff's office was down 5.1 percent, when comparing the first six months of the year.
Vachon said it's difficult to pinpoint any one area responsible for lowering the department's reported crime rate, but praised its Crimewatch program, Citizens on Patrol and educational opportunities on the sheriff's website such as the community alerts section.
"We believe in a strong partnership with the community," he said.
Howey-in-the-Hills and Umatilla had the biggest drop in crime, 42.9 and 41.3 percent respectively. Fruitland Park had the second biggest increase in crime at 50 percent, followed by Mascotte at 40 percent.