Report: Number of rapes spiked in 2021 while overall crime rate decreased

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Rape was the only category of violent or property crime to see in increase from 2020 to 2021.

A new report looking at crime in Florida shows an 8.3% overall drop in 2021 compared to the previous year, with all categories of violent and property crime showing a decrease except for one: rape.

A recently released analysis from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) shows there were 38,534 fewer “index” crimes reported for the calendar year of 2021 than there were for 2020.

But there were 1,045 more reported rapes in 2021 than the previous year, up to 8,700, which translates to a 13.7% increase in reported sexual assaults.

The report also comes during a switch in how data is reported that may not give a complete picture of the state’s crime stats.

The new FDLE analysis is based on data from 239 law enforcement agencies representing about 58% of the state’s population. As for the rest of the data, a press release from the agency explains, “Data received was combined into a statewide aggregate covering the entire population of Florida and compared to 2020 annual figures to determine statewide trends for 2021.”

FDLE did this because many law enforcement agencies are switching to a new reporting system and did not submit summary-based crime statistics.

Rape was the only crime, according to the new FDLE report, to experience an increase in 2021 from the previous year.

University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist and professor emeritus Richard B. Rosenfeld told the Tampa Bay Times last week the information is “provisional data and should be treated with some caution.”

Clara Reynolds, president and CEO of Crisis Center of Tampa, told Florida Politics she isn’t surprised by the increase in reported rapes in 2021. She noted that in 2020, Florida temporarily closed down college campuses, bars and restaurants as the state, and the rest of the world, grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You weren’t seeing people go out and about as much,” she said, adding that bars and college campuses can be “contributing factors” to sexual assaults.

The Crisis Center of Tampa treated 753 Hillsborough County residents in 2021 and administered 326 rape tests. And 2022 has been busier, Reynolds said.

What Reynolds does not know is whether the number of reported rapes has increased because there are more assaults occurring, or whether the message that victims need to report the crime to law enforcement and get help is resonating more.

Meanwhile, of the 8,700 reported rapes, 196 involved either a firearm (109), knife or another sharp object (87).

About 22% of the reported rapes (1,877) were categorized as “domestic,” meaning the offender raped their spouse, parent, child, sibling or “other family” member. The domestic category also includes co-habitants and “others.”

Children (413) and “other family members” (417) were the most common victims of domestic rape according to the analysis.

Crime data has traditionally been collected in a summary format. In summary-based reporting, offenses are placed into a small group of categories known as “index crimes.”

Reported offenses are categorized as either violent or property, both of which had overall decreases in 2021 when compared to the previous year. There was a 3% decrease in the violent crime category, which, in addition to rape, includes homicides, aggravated assaults and robberies.  

Rape was the only offense in the “violent” crime category that saw an increase over the previous year. The number of reported homicides, aggravated assaults and robberies in 2021 decreased from the previous year by 14.2%,1.6% and 17.5%, respectively.

Meanwhile, there was an even larger overall decrease (9.4%) in the number of property-related crimes, a category that includes burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft. Those three crimes saw decreases of 15.1%, 8.8% and 6.4%, respectively.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stopped collecting summary-based data and is collecting “incident” data instead. Twenty-nine agencies now report incident data to the state and another 140 are in the midst of transitioning from summary-based to incident-based reporting, according to the FDLE.

According to the FDLE, 29 Florida agencies have completed the switch and are reporting incident data to the state. Another 140 are in the midst of changing their reporting systems. The agency says incident reporting will capture 56 more offenses and will have more detailed information about the victim, offender and arrestee.

Incident-based crime statistics will be published quarterly, with the next report published on Feb. 28, 2023.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


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