Sheriffs Dispute Report Claiming Madison As Most Dangerous County In The State

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By Jacob Bembry
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Taking the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) from 2012 released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and using a ratio of every 100,000 households, a Jacksonville newspaper recently declared Madison County to be the most dangerous county in the state in which to live. While some people accepted what the newspaper said as fact, Madison County Sheriff Ben Stewart says it just isn’t so. Stewart pointed out that the UCR contains data that is self-reported by law enforcement agencies to the state on semi-annually. It is supposed to consist of the number and types of crimes that happen in any jurisdiction, but it is based on arrests, not on the actual number of crimes that occur. “Any agency that is not efficient at solving crimes and making arrests then has less ‘crime’ to report,” Stewart said. “The clearance rate for Madison County is twice as high as Duval County, which gives us twice the number of crimes to report.” Stewart said that the arrest data is converted to percentages and then compared with the previous year’s UCR. “The less crime that you have, then the worse your percentages appear,” Stewart said. “For instance, Duval County reported 76 murders in 2011 and 94 murders in 2012 which gave them a 24 percent increase for 2012. Madison County had zero murders in 2011 and two in 2012, which gives us a 200 percent increase for 2012. So Duval County reports a 24 percent increase with 94 murders, but Madison County has to report a 200 percent increase with two.” Stewart also proudly pointed out, “I can also report that in 2013 there are no murders to report in Madison County, which is the norm.” Stewart said that the reporter who wrote the article only picked four crimes of the UCR to report on. “Any felony should be considered dangerous,” he said. “When you look at the total crime rate based on population, then Duval County comes out on top with Broward, Dade, Orange, and the other big counties as being more dangerous. The smaller counties like Madison are always the lowest.” Stewart said that he urges everyone to go to the FDLE website and examine the data themselves. “I would also ask you to use common sense and not accept junk science or junk journalism,” he said. Stewart challenges anyone to go for a walk in downtown Madison, Mayo, Apalachicola, Port St. Joe, Live Oak and Monticello (which were ranked as being more dangerous than Jacksonville) and then take a walk through downtown Jacksonville. “You can be the judge of which is safer,” he said. Okeechobee County Sheriff Paul May also takes exception to the report. May said that he has been coming up to Madison County three or four times a year with a friend, who bought a piece of property here to hunt, fish and relax. “Some years, we have spent at least a month in Madison County,” May said. May said that he had made hundreds of trips to Winn-Dixie and enjoyed many meals at O’Neal’s and Ken’s BBQ and even shopped at Farmer’s Supply before Wally Davis retired and has made many friends here. “I have never seen a crime occur in Madison County,” May said. “I have never felt intimidated or in danger in any way; to the contrary, I have met the friendliest people and felt the safest that a person could feel.”

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