Washington County sees decrease in overall crime rate

WASHINGTON COUNTY – For the 50th consecutive year, the number of crimes in Florida are lower than the previous year, according to the Annual Uniform Crime Report recently released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Statewide, there were 76,523 fewer reported crimes in 2020 than in 2019, a decline of about 14 percent.

FDLE calculates the crime index based on population and the total number of index crimes reported by law enforcement.

Here at home, Washington CountyÂ’s overall crime index decreased by a little over five-and-a-half percent. 2019 saw a total crime index of 308. In 2020, that index decreased to 291.

Washington County SheriffÂ’s Office saw a significant decrease in crime, dropping 16.46 percent from 164 in 2019 to 137 in 2020. Sheriff Kevin Crews credits the decrease to the agencyÂ’s focus on combatting the countyÂ’s drug problems.

“We took an aggressive stance on working drug cases in the county, and that helped drive the crime rate down,” said Sheriff Crews. “So much of what we do is connected to the drug problem, so we pursue that side of things and really work those drug cases.”

WCSO answered more than 31,814 calls for service in 2020 and made 409 arrests, 169 of which were drug related. Washington County SheriffÂ’s Office has seen a decrease of more than 37 percent since Sheriff Crews first took office in 2017, during which the crime index was rated at 219, compared to 137 in 2020.

The Chipley Police Department saw a crime rate increase of 8.5 percent in its jurisdiction and like other small agencies, is impacted greatly by the addition of each individual crime.

“Being a small town, each crime counts; each one plays a big role in what the numbers are,” said Chief Thompson. “For example, if you have just one robbery one year and then two the next, your robbery rate goes up by a hundred percent.”

The most frequent crime in the City of Chipley remains larceny – mainly shoplifting from local stores – but Chipley PD saw a decrease in violent crime and burglaries. The City responded to 121 reports of larceny in 2020, compared to 88 in 2019; 8 burglaries, compared to 13 in 2019 and 12 aggravated assaults, compared to 19 in 2019. Murder and rape cases remain unchanged from 2019 at zero and two, respectively.

Chief Thompson says the public is an important component when it comes to fighting crime.

“We have an excellent working relationship with the residents. Getting information from the community, that always makes our job easier,” he said. “Organizations like CrimeStoppers offering rewards for the bigger crimes also helps. I also have a police force that works diligently to prevent crimes, and they work hard every day.”