Crime data doesn’t back up claims of 'dangerous' downtown Tallahassee

Non-traffic police incidents are down in the area when compared to last 10 years, data show.

Downtown Tallahassee.

Downtown Tallahassee. by Steven Martin via Flickr

Downtown Tallahassee has not seen increases in police contact or crime, despite claims to the contrary from some involved in state politics, according to Tallahassee police data.

A Senate Appropriations Committee bill (SB 2506), intended to be part of the upcoming state budget conference, would extend the Capitol Police's authority to provide and maintain security for state officials, employees and visitors in an area called “Memorial Park” because it would include the Florida Veterans Memorial and others.

It's bounded by Monroe Street, Gaines Street, Calhoun Street and East Pensacola Street, and contains several state parking garages and buildings. 

The move follows a growing national trend of Republican-controlled state legislatures looking to expand their state capitol police's authority into a Democratic-controlled capital city. 

In Tallahassee, opinion pieces and political consultants on social media have backed the bill or complained about crime and homelessness downtown, pointing to one incident earlier this year where a homeless man punched a lobbyist.

According to Tallahassee Police Department incident reports within the bill's proposed patrol boundaries, police reports about suspected crimes have not increased in the 10-year period from the start of 2013 to April 4, 2023.

In total, 73 such incidents were recorded from April 1, 2022 to April 4, 2023. Over the 10 year period, 727 incidents occurred, putting the past year’s incident count in line with the expected yearly average.

Of the 73 incidents on records, the majority were traffic violations. Twenty-one of them were hit-and-run cases, 17 were driving with a suspended license, and of the remaining police contacts that involved property, drug or violent crimes, all of them have trended downward compared to averages for the area over the past 10 years.

There were four instances where a battery was investigated in the year, while 49 such cases were investigated over the ten years. Five narcotics-related violations were investigated, compared to an average of seven per year.

Also, four cases of petty theft were investigated in the past year compared to a four and a half yearly average. There were no cases of arson or burglary, compared to yearly occurrence averages of about two each per year.

Those numbers include all police incident reports in the area, not whether someone was actually arrested. One person was arrested for battery and four arrested for narcotics-related crimes. None were arrested for theft.

As the issue first hit the news late last month, Tallahassee officials worked to counter the idea that their downtown is dangerous.

Tallahassee City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, for instance, said during a commission meeting he was “incensed” by one of the op-eds in Florida Politics, according to a Tallahassee Democrat story

“We’re proud of our downtown, its aesthetics, its safety, the businesses that we have downtown, the services that are provided to our residents and guests when they visit our downtown,” said Richardson, who did not respond to a request for comment.

Contact Tristan Wood at twood@cityandstatefl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TristanDWood. And sound off on this story by writing to editor@cityandstatefl.com

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