State officials released some news Wednesday that should make you and your family feel safer - Florida's crime rate has dropped to its lowest level in 30 years. The number of crimes reported fell by three percent last year over 2001.
Thirty-nine more people were murdered in Florida last year than the year before, but despite the increase violent crimes have dropped by four percent. Non-violent crimes, like burglary, are down three percent.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Tim Moore says overall crime in Florida is at its lowest level since 1972.
"That's good news for our citizens, that's good news for our economy, that's good news for our visitors," said Moore.
Kenny Smith has spent more than 20 years in law enforcement. He's watched the state become a safer place to live, and he gives much of the credit to a change in attitude among its citizens.
"They're willing to help," said Smith. "There for awhile, people were not as willing to get involved if something happened. They did not want to give their name, or say' I saw this' or 'I saw that.' Now people are more willing to come forward."
Sheriff Larry Campbell agrees he's seen a change for the better, especially since 9-11.
"I think the respect that the public shows law enforcement (has changed.) I haven't been spit on or called a pig in a lot of years!" said Campbell.
But state officials also credit much of the drop in crime to a get-tough policy on criminals. The bad guys are staying behind bars longer
Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings says crime spiked in the early 90's when there weren't enough prison beds and many inmates got out on early release.
"What changed that right there is making sure that people knew when they committed a crime, they were going to be in jail for a long time," said Jennings.
Prisoners now serve more than 80 percent of their sentences. And the number prison beds have more than doubled in the last 10 years.
Although Florida has the fourth-highest population in the country, it remains near the top of the list in total number of reported crimes, behind only Washington, D.C. and Arizona. But state officials say that's because Florida has among the most complete reporting systems in the country.
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