Keys crime is down first six months of the year

Crime in the Keys went down by almost 8 percent in the first half of this year compared to the same time period in 2012, according to data released by the Monroe County Sheriff' Office this week.

The data, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, tracks the first six months of 2013.

The FDLE statistics say the Sheriff's Office crime rate decreased by 7.8 percent from the same six-month period in 2012, while the city of Key West rate dropped 7.9 percent.

Sheriff's Office deputies and detectives achieved their highest clearance rate for crimes since 1991 during the first half of the year -- 27.4 percent. The 2012 clearance rate from January to June was 23.4 percent.

In Key West, the 2013 clearance rate is 23.5 percent, down from 25.1 in 2012.

The statewide average clearance rate in 2012 was 24.8, according to the FDLE.

There are two ways to clear a case, said agency spokeswoman Deputy Becky Herrin: By arrest or "cleared by exception," which means an offender has been identified but there is something beyond the agency's control that keeps that offender from being arrested.

An example, Herrin said, is if the offender is dead, extradition from another jurisdiction is denied or the case involves a minor who can't be charged with a crime for some reason.

Sheriff Rick Ramsay said he is happy the numbers coincide with the first six months of his first term in office.

"I am also happy to say our agency is clearing more cases than we ever have," Ramsay said in a prepared statement. "Our efforts at cleaning up our community and making it more safe is having a visible effect on our crime and clearance numbers."

Ramsay has made community cleanups one of the hallmarks of his tenure, using deputies, jail inmates and others to clean blighted areas.

Key West Police Chief Donie Lee noted six months is a small sample set, but said he's pleased to see that some areas of concern showed improvement.

"I'm especially grateful to our crime-prevention partnership with the community," Lee said in a statement. "Working together, we may see our efforts paying off."

Lee has put his focus on so-called quality-of-life issues, such as vagrants drinking in public areas.

Most of the decrease in crime in the county was in larceny cases, which went from 1,261 from January to June 2012 to 1,105 for the first six months of this year.

There were no homicides in the county in the first six months of this year, but that changed in August after a homeless man stabbed another homeless man to death in Marathon. That same month, a Stock Island man was charged with manslaughter in the stabbing death of another Stock Island man.

Two people were murdered during the first six months of last year.

Rapes went up from 18 to 22. Twelve of those occurred in Key West. Robberies were down from 38 to 31 (23 in Key West). Up were aggravated assaults -- 141 to 157 -- and automobile thefts (59 to 83).