County looks towards infrastructure, surveillance cameras to curb crime

By: Mariel Carbone | WCTV Eyewitness News
October 10, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The Leon County Commission took a serious look into crime in the community, Tuesday.

The commission held a workshop to dig into some of the latest crime numbers, bringing together TPD Chief Michael DeLeo, LCSO Sheriff Walt McNeil, State Attorney Jack Campbell, as well as representatives from FSU Police, TCC and more.

According to LCSO, crime overall is down in Leon County in the first six months of 2017. That's compared to the same time period in 2016. However, violent crime is up about 10 percent; property crime, on the other hand, is down about eight percent.

Looking at the FBI's Uniform Crime Report paints another picture of the area's crime.

According to the latest reports there, violent crime is down about ten percent from 2007 to 2016 and property crime is up 22 percent. Overall, that report shows crime is up 16.8 percent from 2007 to 2016.

Staff warned that county to county crime cannot be compared or judged from those numbers, as there are many outside factors that contribute to those numbers. Specifically, Leon County has some unique factors that play into the crime rate, including a transient population due to the colleges and universities in the area.

Sheriff McNeil said he's more concerned with the quality of life in Leon County than the crime stats.

"We never completely embrace the UCR data; we don't completely ignore it either," he said. "(I'm) more concerned about the quality of life and saving our citizens than the numbers."

LCSO has been taking steps to reduce crime, including more public-private partnerships, implementing its "all in" initiative, working with new technology to analyze crime, creating the property crimes task force with TPD and starting the Spider Unit, which is a community policing tactic.

Although the Sheriff's Office detailed a lot of work that it is doing, Chairman John Dailey asked for a more in depth look at crime trends.

"Paint me a picture... are the crimes being committed with handguns, semiautomatics, knives, wrenches? What are we looking at?" said Dailey. "Where are our hot spots?"

Chief DeLeo said some of the trends come from underlying issues in different neighborhoods.

"We have struggles and challenges in our community that we have to meet. We have a poverty rate we have to address," said DeLeo.

Specifically in the unincorporated areas, McNeil identified the hot spots as neighborhoods along Highway 20 and in the Woodville neighborhood. In the city, the hot spots are South City, the Bond Community and Griffin Heights, all of which are considered "historical hot spots."

Dailey noted that these historical hot spots have been the same hot spots as when he was growing up in Tallahassee 30 years ago and
stated that something needs to change. Specifically, he targets infrastructure as a leading cause of crime.

"Infrastructure. We need to fight crime through an urban and regional planning perspective," said Dailey. "We need to go lot by lot, block by block. I want to know the conditions of the streets. I want to know how well lit they are... I wan't to know if we have sidewalks. If we do have
sidewalks, what are the conditions of the sidewalks?"

Ultimately, Dailey called on the Community Redevelopment Agency to help fund these infrastructure projects.

Aside from poverty and infrastructure issues influencing crime, a factor in reducing crime is people reporting it.

State Attorney Jack Campbell said when a crime happens, he can count on law enforcement to be there five minutes after the fact, but
can't rely on people reporting it in the first place.

"(We're having a hard time) getting members of the community that were there five minutes before come in and testify," said Campbell.
"Some of the solution is going to be technology to record what's going on there."

Campbell noted he doesn't want to create a "1980's" style environment, but that law enforcement needs to rely more on surveillance video and cameras to prevent and reduce crime.

This is an tactic local law enforcement is currently ramping up. Sheriff McNeil said so far LCSO and TPD are working with about 67 entities
across the city to use their surveillance video to deter criminal activity.

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