Arash Kamiar: The Curry Campaign is Fear Mongering

Mayoral candidate Lenny Curry claims that Jacksonville’s crime rates are exploding under Mayor Alvin Brown. In all actuality, violent and property crimes are at the lowest they have been in 18 years.

Published May 18, 2015 in Opinion -

Mayoral candidate Lenny Curry has presented a grim analysis of Jacksonville to its citizens and to the rest of the country. If you paid any attention, even accidentally, to the Curry campaign, you may be likely to think that Jacksonville’s crime rates are exploding under Mayor Alvin Brown.

In all actuality, violent crimes and property crimes are at all time lows.

Curry’s numbers aren't wrong but they are selective.

His campaign isn't going to blast the airwaves and fill our mailboxes with facts like “Jacksonville’s Violent and Property Crime Rates. Lowest in 18 years!” Instead, the Curry campaign compares crime numbers from 2011 to 2014 to come up with three oft-repeated points:

1. Murder is up 35 percent.
2. Rape is up 36 percent.
3. Assault is up 21 percent.  

The Curry campaign likely pulled their data from a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office report, Violent Crime and Manpower April 2015.  

I used two other sources to review crime trends in Duval: 1) the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look at crime data from 1995 through 2013, and 2) the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics to review  the number of full time police Jacksonville has employed since 2003.

On Violent Crime

The violent crime index and the violent crime rate are at historically low levels. Since Mayor Alvin Brown has been in office there has been a 1 percent decrease in total violent crime and a 2.4 percent decrease in the violent crime rate. Not much has changed, except there are less police employed by JSO now than a few years ago. In a sense, we have done more with less.

READ: Mayor Alvin Brown Did Not Cut 147 Police Officers

Violent crime includes all crimes of murder, forcible sex offenses, robbery and aggravated assault. The "violent crime rate" is the number of crimes that occur for every 100,000 people.

Property, Murder and Rape Breakdowns on Next Page

On Property Crime

Since 1995, property crimes are the lowest they have ever been. These results have been achieved with less police, not more. During Brown's tenure, the property crime index decreased by 11 percent and the property crime rate (crimes occurrences for every 100k persons) decreased by 12 percent.

On Murder

The Curry campaign uses 2011 as a baseline for their crime stats. It’s the year Brown became mayor so the narrative is “look at the terrible things that have happened since Brown came into power.”

2011 is an interesting year. That year we lost 4 percent of our population, around 36,000 people, the first “significant” decrease since 1995 (there was a .49 percent decrease from 2008 to 2009).

2011 is also the year that we had the lowest number of murders since 1995. The next lowest year was 14 years ago in 2001, when 77 people were killed.

Are the number of murders in Jacksonville over the last two years an anomaly or outside of historic norms? It doesn't look that way.

Still, crime rhetoric has been used as political kindle since Curry started campaigning.  Even former Mayor John Delaney jumped on the bandwagon. In one of Curry’s direct mail pieces Delaney is quoted as saying, “Most alarmingly, crime is on the rise, and our murder rate is skyrocketing. While our residents fear for their lives, Mayor Brown has cut police officer positions and slashed funding for public safety programs….”

This is fear mongering.

During Delaney’s tenure, the number of annual murders increased by nearly 14.5 percent. During his last three years in office the number of annual murders increased by 23 percent and continued to climb to record highs during the Peyton administration.  This increase in murders occurred while there were higher numbers of police employed by JSO then there are today.  

During Delaney’s final two years in office the total number of murders for 2002 and 2003 were 93 and 95, respectively. These numbers are similar to what is occurring under Brown’s administration.

The average number of murders annually, from 1995 through 2013, is 92.5 per year.

During Brown’s administration, the total number of murders in 2012 and 2013 were 94 and 93, respectively.

Average Number of Murders Per Year, Per Mayor Tenure:

Every life lost to murder is a serious issue.  We are not doing better as a city when 76 people are killed instead of 94; however, the number of murders that have occurred during Brown’s tenure are not outside of historical norms.  

On Rape

The rape figures are disheartening.

According to Curry, rape is up 35 percent over the last several years. The truth is, reported rape occurrences and all “forcible sex offenses” have steadily increased since 2005.

From 2005 through 2011, "rape by force" was up 66 percent and "total forcible sex offenses" were up 78 percent.

We'll Call this the Conclusion

During one of the lowest crime periods in Jacksonville's history we are enticed by the Curry campaign to believe that our city is barely surviving. It's simply not true. Violent crimes and property crimes are at an all time low and less police were needed to make it happen.

If you would like a copy of the crime tables from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or the tables I assembled, send me an email or contact me via twitter.

Special thanks to forum member "Non-Redneck Westsider" for highlighting the crime numbers in related discussions.

Written by Arash Kamiar


Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Crime in Florida, Florida uniform crime report, 1995-2013 [Computer program]. Tallahassee, FL:  FDLE. Florida Statistical Analysis Center.      

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