While speaking in Jacksonville on Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis repeated a claim that Florida’s crime rate is at 50-year low — but is it true?
Data experts told News4JAX it’s a statistic that doesn’t paint the full picture.
DeSantis made the claim while responding to a Black Air Force veteran who blamed a recent racially motivated shooting on the governor’s policies. DeSantis has also been making the same statement on the national stage.
“Our crime rate in Florida is at a 50-year low,” DeSantis said at one point during the intense exchange at a restaurant on the Southside.
The statement caused the crowd to applaud, but data analysts with the Marshall Project said DeSantis isn’t telling the full story about Florida’s crime statistics.
The Marshall Project Data Reporter Weihua Li said data shows that about half of the agencies that police more than 40% of the state’s population are missing in the 2021 report. She said it is due to a recent change in the way the FBI and state agencies collect crime data.
“Obviously, this patchiness of data creates huge issues in trying to hold politicians accountable,” Li said.
According to data from The Marshall Project — a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization — in Duval County, just 3.1% of the population was covered in Florida’s reported crime data and 92.3% of the population in St. Johns County was covered.
Li said only 49 law enforcement agencies in Florida, which is less than 8%, were included in the FBI Federal database last year according to its analysis. Florida’s participation rate is the lowest of any state in the country, according to The Marshall Project.
Li said Florida does not require law enforcement agencies to report their crime statistics, instead, it’s entirely voluntary.
News4JAX also reached out to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and learned:
29 Florida police agencies have transitioned to what’s now called incident-based, uniform crime reporting140 agencies are in the process of transitioningFor the counties that have not submitted their data, the state estimates their totals based on statewide trends
Li said Floridians deserve to know the full context of Florida’s crime statistics.
“So when Governor Ron DeSantis is saying Florida state has its crime data, it’s at a 50-year low, what he’s really saying is based on our estimations of crime data, that’s missing 40% of Florida’s population, crime is at the 50-year low,” Li said.
After reviewing this topic, we’ve found some issues – Be Careful.
So to the statement from Gov. DeSantis that Florida’s crime rate has dropped to a 50-year low, the News4JAX Trust Index is giving this statement the rating of “Be Careful.”
There is simply not enough data to back up the claim that FDLE concedes was determined partially on estimations.
News4JAX also reached out to the governor’s office but it did not immediately respond.