Q: Can you give us some insight into the Sheriff’s Office budget you will be submitting to the county in mid-June [as of interview date of June 11]?
A: The budget does contain an increase, mainly due to the growth in St. Johns County. The federal minimum wage is going up and we have to keep up as well, so a big part of the increase is an increase in wages for sheriff’s office employees below the executive level rank. Keeping up with necessary software accounts for some of the increase, and we’re also dealing with an increase in the cost of firearms, ammunition, and fuel.
Q: Can you share some of the latest crime statistics for St. Johns County?
A: We report our statistics twice a year to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in what’s called a UCR (Uniform Crime Report). We saw many substantial decreases in St. Johns County from 2019 to 2020: murder was down 20 percent, sexual battery was down 54 percent, and robbery was down 28 percent. We had an increase of 15 percent in aggravated assault, but the overall total index of offenses showed an 18 percent decrease.
We saw an increase in domestic violence of 18 percent, likely due to the lockdown. People were out of work and stuck in their homes; it was a very challenging time for families.
Q: Do you have any breakdowns for northern St. Johns County?
A: For the Northwest, we saw significant decreases in calls for service (76,000 in 2019 vs. 59,000 in 2020) and arrests (602 in 2019 vs. 484 in 2020). In the northeast part of the county, which includes Ponte Vedra Beach, Nocatee, Palencia and Vilano, there was not as significant of a decrease (calls for service went down from 82,140 in 2019 to 81,451 in 2020 and arrests decreased from 780 in 2019 to 731 in 2020).
Q: Are there any statistics covering a larger period of time that you find interesting?
A: Something interesting to me is that between 2008 – 2020, with the significant population growth of St. Johns County, our violent crime is down 64 percent and non-violent crime is down 74 percent (when you compare 2008 to 2020).
I believe that the improving averages we are seeing in 2020 are a direct reflection of proactive policing, to include information sharing, the use of modern technology and also the repurposing of assets. I’ve pushed policing of the Interstate 95 corridor more than in previous years in an effort to save lives and target human trafficking, the transporting of illegal drugs, and aggressive driving. Many people don’t know that we don’t only police the 601 square miles of land that is St. Johns County, but also 221 square miles of adjacent water.
Our efforts to solve crime and keep these statistics low are greatly enhanced by the relationships we have with the community. We rely on our community partnerships and ask that anyone with any information or tips call us. We are happy to check the information out and decide if it is critical to a case or not.
Q: What is the best way for our readers to contact you with any questions or suggestions about this article?
A: They can email me at email@example.com or call me at (904) 824-8304. Also, our website, www.sjso.org has a wealth of resources, from alarm registration to Crime Stoppers to our Neighbors app.