At the February 1st Gainesville City Commission meeting, the Gainesville Police Department (GPD) gave their quarterly update for fiscal year 2024. Assistant Chief Nelson Moya stood in for the chief of police, detailing the changes in crime rates and other police-related statistics over the past three years.
Property crimes, grand theft crimes, and violent crimes such as rape, robbery, and aggravated assault were sorted based on the number of incidents reported. Moya took the number of victims into account when going over homicide statistics.
Violent crime was on the rise overall, with homicides at 14 in 2023, showing a steady increase over the past three years. Moya disclosed that there were 16 victims in these 14 incidents. He additionally stated that two out of fourteen of the homicides were classified as “justifiable homicides.”
Reported incidents of assault and robbery both showed similar increases, with 184 and 651 counts last year, respectively.
In 2023, there was a slight decrease in reported incidents of rape, with the number falling from 173 in the previous year to 155. It's important to note that in 2021, there was a surge in reported cases, reaching 174, showing an alarming increase of 46 compared to the reports in 2020.
Property crimes showed a large increase except for grand theft, which decreased from 580 in 2022 to 534 in 2023. Burglary and larceny both showed a sharp increase, with larceny sitting at 3,869 incidents in 2023, while burglary shows a number of 513 incidents reported. Both show an increase of over 150 incidents compared to the previous year.
This puts the total number of crimes committed in Gainesville during 2023 at 5,920. 1,004 of those crimes were violent.
Moya amplified his worry about the increase in burglary rates before looking at the data over the last 3 months in 2023. He noted that there was a trend of auto theft increases in the last quarter of the year compared to previous quarters.
Moya went on to look at gun-related crime statistics in 2023 compared to 2022. The number of incidents of shots fired decreased in 2023 from 170 to 147; however, the number of people shot increased in comparison to the previous year, going from 47 to 60.
The report clarified that 8 shootings in 2022 were accidental, compared to 4 accidental shootings in 2023. Moya also clarified the “weapons seized” category applies to anything that can be used as a weapon.
Moya stated that the number of conveyance burglaries that resulted in stolen firearms decreased in 2023. Commissioner Casey Willits pointed out that, according to the data being presented, conveyance burglaries that resulted in stolen firearms had not decreased in 2023.
After Willits had Moya clarify the increase in conveyance burglaries that resulted in stolen firearms, GPD's chief inspector, Jaime Kurnick, clarified that across the board there was an overall decrease in firearm theft.
Commissioner Bryan Eastman asked where the other stolen firearms were coming from. Moya did not have a pattern and said they could come from houses or stolen purses.
Mayor Harvey Ward discouraged the idea of residents possessing firearms in their cars, saying that if they feel the need to own a gun, they should take it with them when they leave their cars or lock their car doors. Moya said most of these thefts were from people leaving their car doors unlocked.
Moya proceeded to detail the gun-related stats over the last two-quarter years in 2023. The number of shots fired stayed relatively the same between the two quarters; however, the number of people injured by gunfire shot up, going from nine incidents of people being shot, with two being accidents from July to September, to 22 people being shot, with none being accidents from October to December.
Moya then went over maps that show areas of concentrated firearm theft before handing the presentation over to Kurnick, who went over Gainesville’s crime rates in comparison to other cities.
Mayor Ward said that he had asked the peer cities to work with the department a bit over a year ago. He stated that one person being shot or one home being burglarized is too many, but that it’s still useful to compare trends in cities with similar economies.
Kurnick agreed, stating, “For every victim that we have contact with and every call for service, the officers, the supervisors, and our agency, take it as a crime or a person that we need to help. And how do we do that? And through much of our closure rates and much of our cases, we finish and hold people accountable, which you will see a slide later in that shows the sentences we have gotten off of major cases we work for violent crime. You will see that it is the main priority of the police department to protect the public and the community at this point because we understand the implications of what it means for every person.”
This is despite GPD not holding their officers accountable for receiving sustained general order violations after committing crimes, such as Corporel Brooke Shutterly, who committed sexual assault, as well as Officer Andrew Milman, who received general order violations for his involvement in a traffic stop, which led to Terrell Bradley having his eye torn out by a K-9 unit. Milman was recently involved in an unlawful arrest.
Moving onto discussions of criminal investigations, Lieutenant Lonnie Scott Jr. mentioned shooting cases that resulted in arrests, such as Devin Freeman, Brandon Cushion, and Amanda Janzen’s cases. Scott went through a recent child abuse case where two UF employees were arrested, along with recent property crime arrests and arrests made by the Internet Crimes Against Children Division (ICAC).
In looking at case resolutions, Scott shows that criminals convicted of homicide received much harsher sentences than those who committed internet crimes against children.
Following his presentation, Sgt. Lynne Valdes gave an overview of traffic investigations, displaying a graph that shows a decrease in traffic-related deaths from 24 in 2022 to 19 in 2023. Valdes said confirmation from a medical examiner on January 31st pushes the 2023 number to 20.
Valdez went on to give statistics on the woman’s defense program she runs called Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.), showing the number of participants in the program each year since 2020.
Lisa Scott followed this up with 2023 data from the co-responder team, which is a program in which GPD pairs an officer with a Meridian mental health clinician. During 2023, the co-responder team received 3,336 calls for service. She said it has resulted in 79 jail diversions where mental health treatment was offered as an alternative.
Scott briefly gave statistics related to the gun violence initiative, showing 76 arrests and 21 firearms seized since the initiative began.
Kurnick then returned to go over the Pre-Arrest Diversion program, which she described as a “way to divert low-level misdemeanor cases away from the criminal justice system.” Requirements include the admission of the crime and no violent crime in recent years. She clarified that the state attorney’s office ultimately decided if someone was diverted, not GPD. She showed that the number of referrals to the program had dropped to 15 in 2023 due to a lack of coordination and funding.
After going over hiring procedures, Moya returned to conclude the presentation, saying the dialogue between officers, citizens, and the mayor was necessary as tough times are navigated.
Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker thanked GPD for their communication and said, “When things happen, it's a traumatic experience, and oftentimes there is this hush. And people are wondering, what’s going to happen?"
When given the option, no attendees elected to publicly comment on the item.