Index crime statistics fall in Marion County
Overall, crime was down in Marion County in 2020, including the number of murders, rapes and robberies reported, according to statistics released by the state on June 20.
Most of the so-called index crimes dropped locally compared to 2019 during a year that saw many people working from home and not venturing out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the cases of aggravated assault and aggravated stalking increased in the county, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s annual crime report.
Index crimes include murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The eight crimes are used as a common indicator of the prevalence of crime across the nation.
The number of index crimes reported in the county fell from 8,397 in 2019 to 7,569 this year, a drop of nearly 10%.
Murders dropped from 31 in 2019 to 19 in 2020. Rapes fell from 227 to 184. Robberies also dropped from 211 to 136, reports state.
It was a similar picture when comparing crimes reported by the top two law enforcement agencies in the county. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office went from 5,001 index crime cases in 2019 to 4,875 in 2020. However, the sheriff’s report of aggravated assault and burglary was up.
“In reference to the uptick in aggravated assault (threat with a deadly weapon) and aggravated stalking (stalking AND making a credible threat), many of these are domestic in nature. This trait carried throughout most of Florida over the last year. Our number of calls for domestic violence increased as we saw lockdowns and job losses due to COVID-19,” said Paul Blook, sheriff’s spokesman.
Bloom said many of the burglaries in the county are break-in into cars.
“Typically, about 85 to 90% of those vehicles are left unlocked,” Bloom said.
The Ocala Police Department went from 3,041 index crime reports, to 2,349. OPD had a slight increase in reported rapes, going from 52 in 2019 to 55 in 2020.
Lou Biondi, OPD chief deputy, said while COVID-19 may explain part of the reduction in index crimes, the department’s aggressive approach toward violent crime also helped.
In 2019, OPD started its Direct Patrol Unit, which is made up of patrol officers that focus on hot spots of violent crimes.
“Instead of targeting the crime, we try to go after the players,” Biondi said.
The unit allows regular patrol units to respond to routine calls.
Biondi said one trend common in the summer is car burglaries, which spike while kids are out of school.
Crime also fell overall in Florida during 2020, but violent crime rose, according to FDLE statistics.
Statewide there were 1,285 murders in Florida last year, an increase of 260, or 14.7% from 2019. Of those, 1,025 were committed with a gun, up 20.2% from the year before. Murders committed with a gun made up nearly 80% of the state’s total.
Overall, factoring in the state’s growth in population, all crime was down 15.7% in 2020.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.