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Well imagine that, lower crime rates in FL! :) ... Crime.html

Bush: Florida crime rate down to lowest level since '71
Associated Press Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. â€" Florida's crime rate dropped for the 14th straight year in 2005 to its lowest mark since 1971 because of tougher laws, increased financial support from the Legislature and law-abiding citizens with guns, Gov. Jeb Bush said Tuesday.

"This report shows that staying tough on crime works," said Bush. "Law abiding citizens that have guns for protection actually probably are part of the reason we have a lower crime rate."

The crime rate, compiled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, decreased 3.7 percent from 4,855 crimes per 100,000 people in 2004 to 4,677 crimes per 100,000 people last year. The total included 881 murders, 12,230 rapes and 75,204 vehicle thefts.

In 2005, the state's law enforcement agencies reported 838,063 crimes compared to 850,490 in 2004, a 1.5 percent decrease.

Last year Bush signed a bill that allows people who feel threatened on the street, in a bar, at a ball game â€" or just about anywhere â€" to "meet force with force" to defend themselves without fear of being prosecuted.

"You send a real powerful signal when you know the citizen has a good potential of being armed and doesn't have to back off anymore," said John Birch, president of the Illinois-based Concealed Carry, Inc.

Opponents, however, have said the idea would legalize shootouts in the streets.

A telephone message left for comment after hours with the The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C. was not immediately returned.

Bush said he was concerned about the number of murders in the Jacksonville and Orlando areas, where there have already been 120 homicides this year.

FDLE chief Jerry Bailey said he has assigned seven agents to help Jacksonville officials with the troubling increase in murders and is working with law enforcement in central Florida on forming a task force.

The number of violent crimes in 2005 increased statewide by 1.7 percent although the rate dropped 0.6 percent and nonviolent crime decreased by 4.2 percent. Violent crimes are murder, forcible sex offenses, robbery and aggravated assault.

Reports of domestic violence were up slightly and those incidents accounted for more than a fourth of the reported violent crimes and one-fifth of all murders, according to FDLE.

"The people that commit the majority of the crimes are habitual offenders," Bush said. "They're the ones that commit a crime after crime after crime."

For the second straight year, authorities made more than one million arrests. The 1,056,121 arrests in 2005 represented a 2.6 percent increase.

Drug arrests continued to increase, going from 150,334 to 160,649. Last year they increased nearly 10 percent.
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