According to preliminary statistics posted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), despite a reduction in the overall crime rate in Florida, violent crimes committed with firearms, many of which were allegedly stolen, are on the rise.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that, while preliminary, the statistics are quite disturbing. According to the compiled numbers, statewide murders totaled 1,129, a 28 percent increase from last year's statistics; slayings with a firearm increased 42 percent; and robberies climbed 13.4 percent.
"This is not good, to put it mildly," says University of Central Florida sociologist Jay Corzine, who has been studying the region's rising violence. "That's just a huge increase, comparatively."
Law enforcement officials in Orange County attribute much of last year's violence to street criminals and drug dealers with guns.
"Several gun stores have been robbed here and in the county, and they're being stolen from people's cars and homes," says Orlando police Sgt. Barbara Jones.
Abatement of the rising gun crime rate is being taken quite seriously by law enforcement officials. The Orange County Sheriff's Office and Orlando police have launched numerous street-crime initiatives and roundups to crack down on drug dealing and the violence it causes. Additionally, two federally funded task forces focused on reducing gun violence are currently underway.
Sheriff's spokesman Capt. Mark Strobridge blamed much of the problem on young offenders using handguns in robberies or disputes over drugs or money.
"Criminals out there have an attitude that there is no tomorrow the way they commit crimes," Strobridge said. "We have had several offenders tell us they're going to be dead or in jail by the time they're 22 years old, so what do they have to lose?"
FDLE spokeswoman Kristen Perezluha says the statistics posted on the Website were from a "draft copy" that was accidentally posted prematurely and that the finalized statistics would likely be released this week.