A report generated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation finds overall crime and arrests decreased in Zephyrhills last year, but violent crime and domestic offenses went up.
Zephyrhills police Capt. Derek Brewer presented the city’s 2016 uniform crime statistics, during a March 27 city council meeting.
The figures were generated through the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR), which the police department reports to semi-annually, to provide a useful barometer for addressing crimes citywide.
The city’s total crime rate, which incorporates violent and property offenses, decreased 4.7 percent in 2016, the report shows.
Violent crimes rose 3 percent (a total of 51 offenses). Property crimes fell 5.2 percent (a total of 879 offenses).
Among property crimes, the city saw the largest decrease in burglaries and motor vehicle thefts. Burglaries were down 19.6 percent (86 actual offenses), and motor vehicle thefts were down 16 percent (21 actual offenses), in 2016.
Meanwhile, the uptick in violent crimes, Brewer said, is oftentimes attributed to narcotics offenses. (In the UCR Program, violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.)
To address the issue, Brewer noted the police department is taking a proactive approach toward narcotics arrests, using a special response team for surveillance and intelligence gathering “to attack the problem at a broader level.”
“We’re going to focus on getting search warrants, as opposed to just controlled, street-level offenses, hoping that we get the bigger fish as opposed to the small ones,” Brewer explained.
The most staggering figure from the crime report, perhaps, is the jump in citywide domestic-related offenses.
Those incidents, which include simple battery and assault, skyrocketed 27.6 percent, with 125 actual offenses in 2016.
To tackle that problem, the police department has begun collaborating with Sunrise Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Center, based in Dade City.
Both groups are working together to “break the cycle” of domestic incidents, via education and awareness efforts.
“We’re hoping to take a stronger approach to domestic violence cases,” Brewer said.
Besides crime rates, total arrests decreased 12 percent (832 total) in 2016.
Brewer pointed out the department, instead, placed a greater emphasis on reducing property crime and drug offenses, and working on code enforcement and the city’s homeless initiative.
Those arenas, Brewer said, “took away from some of the focus on the actual arrests.”
Following the presentation, councilman Charles Proctor expressed his support for the Zephyrhills police department, particularly for its ongoing initiative to combat narcotics-related offenses.
“I am excited…that we are getting into a more active, gathering intelligence about the drugs. That’s been a pet peeve of mine for a long time, and I believe that we’re making great strides in the area,” Proctor said. “I believe that will definitely help lower the crime rate, if we can get rid of (drug usage) going on in the community.”
Meantime, the city’s police force remains understaffed.
The department currently has three unfilled positions, including a detective vacancy.
In other business, City Manager Steve Spina suggested that regular city council meetings be held in the Zephyrhills Public Library’s conference room, once the current city hall is demolished and city staff takes up temporary quarters in the former police station.
Meetings were originally planned for the Alice Hall Community Center, 38116 Fifth Ave. But, Spina noted the library conference room is already wired for audio-visual capabilities and offers a more ideal sound system, Spina said.
Council members unanimously supported Spina’s suggestion.
Construction is slated to begin in June on a new City Hall complex, replacing the existing building, at 5335 Eighth St.
Council meetings will likely begin in the library this summer.
Published April 12, 2017