As Ron DeSantis is running for President, he is touting Florida’s crime rate as an accomplishment. It is anything but that. Quoting DeSantis, “Claiming that Florida is unsafe is a total farce. I mean, are you kidding me? You look at cities around this country, they are awash in crime. In Florida, our crime rate is at a 50-year low.” Here is the truth DeSantis is not telling you about Florida’s crime rate.
Crime Data Collection
Nearly half of the state’s population is excluded from 2021 crime figures estimated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), according to data provided to Axios by The Marshall Project, a nonprofit newsroom covering criminal justice. About half of the agencies that police, more that 40% of the state’s population are missing from crime statics. Florida’s participation rate in the FBI’s national data collection is the lowest of any state in the country.
Only 49 agencies from Florida, representing less than 8% of police departments, were included in an FBI federal database last year, according to a Marshall Project analysis. This means more than 500 police departments in Florida — including most of the largest agencies, like the Miami Police Department, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, and the St. Petersburg Police Department — are missing from the national context. Florida’s participation rate is the lowest of any state in the country.
Experts said Florida’s low participation means it’s nearly impossible to compare Florida’s crime rate to other states, or to compare Florida’s current crime statistics with data from past years. “In order to talk accurately about a problem, we need to be able to define the problem correctly,” said Brendan Lantz, a criminology professor at Florida State University. “And we simply cannot do that with the existing data in Florida.”
Comparisons to Other States
But there’s a problem with DeSantis’s attacks on Democrats’ policies on crime: It’s not clear that crime is lower in Florida than in some of the cities he has criticized. In some Florida cities, the data shows murder rates are significantly higher than in blue cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Boston. There’s also no evidence to support that some of DeSantis’s signature public safety policies, including doubling down on cash bail, are effective in reducing crime, and other DeSantis crime policies involve considerable trade-offs and uncertainties.
Nevertheless, DeSantis has used those estimates to make the case that Florida has seen crime decrease to 50-year lows because it didn’t enact policies like defunding the police and bail reform. Those claims don’t square with city-level data. The research firm AH Datalytics tracked homicides in four Florida cities for which data was available — Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa — and the number of murders per 100,000 people in 2021 was higher than it was for most of the 2010s, much less 50 years ago.
“We’ve got playgrounds with shell casings around them,” said Jacksonville City Council Member Al Ferraro, a Republican that ran for mayor.
And the data suggests that the situation is getting worse: Jacksonville, Miami, and Tampa had higher murder rates in 2021 than cities in blue states including New York City, Los Angeles, and Boston, according to AH Datalytics’s data. And between 2021 and 2022, homicides rose by at least 9 percent in those Florida cities.
But by comparison, homicides declined by at least 9 percent in three of four New York cities tracked by AH Datalytics — New York, Rochester, and Syracuse — and rose by less than 2 percent in Buffalo. The murder rates for all of those cities were below historical highs in those years, with the exception of Rochester, which saw its deadliest year on record in 2021.
Florida has been a site of more mass shootings than any other state except California so far in 2023. The number of mass shootings in Florida and associated deaths and injuries have increased between 2019, when DeSantis took office as governor, and 2022. Florida ranks above the national average in firearms deaths overall per 100,000 people, and significantly above New York and other cities that DeSantis talks about a having rampant crime.
It is time for DeSantis to compare apples to apples and not apples to avocados. Tell the people the truth Ron, quit twisting the data around to make yourself look good. People are crime data illiterate and giving them incomplete data does nothing to help.
And that, my friend is the truth DeSantis is not telling you about Florida’s crime rate.