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Crime rate jumps in city

A nearly 30 percent increase in Brooksville offsets a small decrease in the rest of the county. Countywide, crime increased 2.1 percent in 2000.

By JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 24, 2001


While most of the state saw a drop in crime in 2000, Brooksville recorded an almost 30 percent increase, particularly in robberies, aggravated assaults and larcenies.

The jump in crime within the city was high enough to offset the decrease in the rest of thecounty, according to statistics released Monday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Areas served by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office actually saw a tiny .04 percent drop in crime. Overall, the county crime rate increased 2.1 percent.

Brooksville Police Chief Ed Tincher said Monday he did not think the large increase was an accurate reflection of crime in the city. He said the 29.4 percent jumplooked bigger than it actually was because the city has so little crime, any increase looks like a lot.

"When I look at a community that has only two crimes committed a day, I think that's pretty good," Tincher saidof the city's 692 offenses reported last year.

Brooksville's double-digit increase is the second in as many years. In 1999, the city saw an 86 percent jump.

At that time, Tincher said the increase was an illusion -- that turnover in his office had led to incomplete reporting in 1998, which meant that the statistics for 1999 looked overblown. The 2000 statistics, however, cannot be explained away, he said.

"We're up, and the whole world is down," he said with a sigh, referring to the decrease in crime throughout the rest of the state. "I don't put much stock in (the statistics) ... but everything that should have been reported was reported. It's frustrating to me because it's used like my report card."

To that end, Tincher said he hopes the extra effort officers have recently spent trying to clean up south Brooksville, an area known for drug dealing, will lower the crime rate.

"Some of the robberies have been when people have gone down there buying drugs and got ripped off. A lot of the larcenies, a lot of those things are sold for drugs," he said. "The area is getting better. (The drug dealing) is not as obvious as it has been in the past. You can drive through Tanglewood Apartments ... and it's clean. It looks like a nice place to live."

The Sheriff's Office has also been helping in south Brooksville.

On Monday, Sheriff Richard Nugent said he was encouraged by the county's small decrease in overall crime -- particularly because at the six-month mark, the number of crimes in unincorporated areas had been up almost 14 percent.

He attributed the drop in burglaries to the return of the agency's street crimes unit, which had been disbanded for a short time to fill state-mandated positions for child abuse investigations.

"We're pleased. We'll take any decrease we can get," he said.

Here are some more highlights of statistics released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement:

The number of robberies increased countywide. The city had 23 in 2000, compared with 16 in 1999. The county had 67 in 2000, up from 55 the year before.

Aggravated assaults within Brooksville nearly doubled, from 57 in 1999 to 100 in 2000.

Rape was up within the county but down in the city. The Sheriff's Office reported 79 in 2000 compared with 58 in 1999. The city reported four rapes, one fewer than the year before.

Burglaries and auto thefts decreased in 2000 in the county. The city also recorded a drop in car thefts.

Both agencies recorded an increase in larcenies, particularly shoplifting incidents.

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