On Monday, April 12th, 2021, the Fort Myers Police Department spoke to City Council regarding the trends of the city's crime rates. Police Chief Derrick Diggs, backed by statistical consultants, shared that the rate of several categories of violent crime in our city have dropped SIGNIFICANTLY – down 51% over the last 6 years. Chief Diggs explains that this decrease is the product of studying and responding to trends as they develop in the community and paying deeper notice to statistics that identify where crimes are likely to happen. This strategy enables police officers to focus their efforts, with more effective results.
“A 50% drop in crime tells me we are concentrating on the right things...it says to me, the city is safe. We have to do better because we can only drop crime so much.” – FMPD Chief Derrick Diggs
Dan Gerard of Peel Nine, a Cincinnati-based consulting firm that uses data to develop crime-fighting strategies, claims that Fort Myers homicides have decreased by 40%, rapes down by 29%, robberies 59%, and aggravated assaults are down nearly 51%. These same statistics tell police officers that 40% of all property crimes happen in an area of less than 1 square mile. Gerard claims that these significant results show us at FMPD is not using a “one-size-fits-all” approach to solving crime, they are targeting and focusing their efforts to the specific places and people that are driving crime. During this same 6-year period that these statistics were drawn from, arrests in Fort Myers decreased by 1,037, or 25%.
Chief Diggs is committed to continuing his Department's efforts towards community trust and engagement, stating “We have to get the people that live in this community and work in this community to start working with us and start helping us because the whole idea is to prevent crime, not go around arresting people”. FMPD hopes to build deeper trust with residents so that they will testify when a crime occurs, as well as be open to reform after being involved in crime. Chief Diggs is proud of the work his Department is doing to improve their relationship with the minority community, working with police officers "so they can understand what bias is and understand not to say certain things, to communicate better with people of color in our communities". FMPD is also now partnering with city officials to distribute a community survey to all Fort Myers residents to see what changes they would like to see.
Cities across the country have been dealing with increased crime rates during the Pandemic, but Fort Myers is clearly defying that trend. The consultant Gerard added, "the vast majority of American cities were showing a vast increase in violent crime; Fort Myers was able to have almost a 4% reduction in violent crime in a pandemic". Chief Diggs is confident this trend will continue, as FMPD has also received a federal grant to start working with individuals who had previously been in custody to help them reacclimate to their community. Diggs said “We are going to work with these individuals to try to make sure we get them out of the violent lifestyle, so they become better citizens in this community".