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The crime statistics for DeSantis’ almost four years in office are incomplete.
The available data from 2020 shows a drop in overall crime of more than 14% after DeSantis' first year as governor.
Crime data for 2021 won’t be released until late November; numbers for 2022 won't be available until 2023.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist tried to raise doubts about Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' "law and order" style of leadership in their only debate before the Nov. 8 election.
Crist, who served as governor from 2007 to 2010, contrasted crime rates from his time in office with those under DeSantis.
"Crime is up under Governor DeSantis," Crist said Oct. 24. "Crime was down when I was your governor because we enforced the laws and made sure Floridians were safe."
PolitiFact decided to fact-check Crist's crime comparison. Crist didn't specify whether he was referring to violent or nonviolent crime during the debate.
One issue surfaced right away: The data for half of DeSantis' term is not ready.
State crime statistics come from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which collects crime data from local law enforcement agencies for an annual report presented to the Legislature and the FBI for the national Uniform Crime Reporting Program.
The data has several limitations. Its quality depends on the accuracy of the information supplied to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement by local police agencies. But they have made reporting errors before.
With that in mind, overall crime fell by about 12% from 2007 to 2010 — Crist's first and last full year as governor. DeSantis took office in 2019. From 2019 to 2020, reported crimes fell from 541,328 to 464,805 — a 14% decrease.
That figure includes violent offenses, including murder and rape, and property offenses, such as robbery and motor vehicle theft. Put another way, the crime rate dropped from about 2,552 reported crimes per 100,000 residents to 2,158 per 100,000 residents.
But there are caveats: the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has not published data for more recent years of DeSantis' term. Crime totals for 2021 won't be released until Nov. 30; numbers for 2022 won't be available until 2023.
The state did not allow PolitiFact to preview the 2021 report ahead of its release.
Although crimes dropped a significant amount in 2020, researchers are still assessing how the pandemic and its accompanying lockdown orders affected crime.
Email interview with Sam Ramirez, communications director for the Crist campaign, Oct. 25, 2022
Email interview with Delanie Bomar, press secretary for the DeSantis campaign, Oct. 27, 2022
Email interview with Dennis Kenney, John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor, Oct. 27, 2022
Email interview with Lyndsay Boggess, associate professor at the University of South Florida's Department of Criminology, Oct. 27, 2022
Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 2020 Crime in Florida abstract report, accessed Oct. 26, 2022
Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Statewide Reported Violent Crime 1971-2020, accessed Oct. 26, 2022
Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 2010 Crime in Florida abstract report, accessed Oct. 26, 2022
Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 2009 Crime in Florida abstract report, accessed Oct. 26, 2022
Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 2008 Crime in Florida abstract report, accessed Oct. 26, 2022
Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 2007 Crime in Florida abstract report, accessed Oct. 26, 2022
PolitiFact, Andrew Gillum says crime dropping in Tallahassee, Oct. 8, 2018
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