SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Something happened last year in Manatee County that hasn’t happened in more than a decade: Crime actually went up.
Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells says the population of Manatee County increasing by more than 70,000 residents since 2006. In one of the fastest growing counties in the state, the crime rate was up 2.2 percent county-wide last year.
The most common crime is theft. The population growth has made it difficult to cover expanding communities.
“We can only get so many deputies every year,” said Sheriff Wells. “The county can only afford so many new positions, but we’ve been very fortunate over the last three years to be able to get 30 brand new deputies.”
In the City of Bradenton, the crime rate increased by 9.1 percent, but the city saw a decrease in murders. In Palmetto, the overall increase was 4.8 percent, but there was a decrease in violent crimes.
Sheriff Wells says the areas of concern are larcenies and theft. “Put out several social media posts and campaigns just trying to help people understand the importance of locking your vehicles and removing all their personal belongings. Also Wal-Mart, Target and all these retailers that have theft in their stores, those numbers reflect on our increase."
They are making some progress and Sheriff Wells says they’re already 10 percent down for the first half of 2019 and explains the key is limiting opportunities for criminals.
“That’s really what we talk about and preach the most is making sure that we do the little things to help us not be victims of crime,” Sheriff Wells said.
In Sarasota County, overall crime decreased by 1.8 percent.