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Serious crime drops in Sarasota, according to police report

There were no murders last year, and the Sarasota Police Department reports a 16.2% decline in the most serious crimes in 2023.

Police Chief Rex Troche and members of the Sarasota Police Department command staff present 2023 crime data to the Sarasota City Commission.
Police Chief Rex Troche and members of the Sarasota Police Department command staff present 2023 crime data to the Sarasota City Commission.
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The last time Sarasota went a calendar year without a homicide, most city commissioners and staff present at the Feb. 19 meeting had not yet been born.

That was in 1967. 

Fifty-six years later, Sarasota went all of 2023 without a homicide, according to a report presented to the City Commission by Sarasota Police Chief Rex Troche and members of the SPD command staff.

Arrests were up and serious crime was down in Sarasota in 2023, all of which sends notice to city residents and outsiders alike that committing crimes here will meet a robust law enforcement response.

That was the message delivered by Troche and company as they presented the results of last year's law enforcement efforts. Successful crime-reducing operations, high visibility and building community relations were some of the reasons for the decline in serious crime, they told commissioners.

“I would say the operations that we started doing, using the data and focusing on those hotspots, people know that they cannot come to Sarasota and commit a crime without being caught,” Troche said.

One example is Operation Armistice, which SPD conducted from April through August of last year. That effort resulted in 99 arrests, 193 felony charges, 46 misdemeanor charges, 20 firearms seized, 5.63 pounds of narcotics seized and 61 traffic citations. 

The entire operation was conducted with one sergeant and five officers. Among the narcotics seized, according to Capt. John Todd of the Criminal Investigations Unit, were cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana.

“It was a data-driven and intelligence-led, proactive enforcement operation that was conducted by members of our Community Action team,” said Todd of Operation Armistice. “Before they even started the operation they got with our crime analysts to find out the who, what, when, where and why these crimes were occurring; where these crimes were occurring; the days of the week and times and locations; and potential suspects that we need to keep an eye on.

“It was just a fantastic job by them and it certainly curtailed the crime levels that we were seeing.”

Headlining SPD’s presentation, though, was a significant drop in Part 1 crimes — homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and vehicle theft — and that, for the first time since 1967, there were no homicides in the city. By contrast there were seven homicides reported In 2022. 

“We had to go far so far back that we're looking at three-by-five cards,” Troche said of the records search.

Overall, Part 1 crimes were down 16.2% with the only category increase a 12% rise in forcible sex crime. The reduction in Part I crimes from 2022 to 2023 is the largest in the city since 1999, according to SPD.

Year-Over-Year Arrest Comparisons
 20222023% Change
Physical Arrests2,3832,73314.7%
Total Charges3,4373,95715.1%
Felony Arrest Charges1,1451,40622.8%
Drug Charges4491,048133.4%
Firearms Seized26831015.6%
Warrant Arrest Charges9751,09712.5%

“Essentially the things that need to go up went up (arrests) and the things that need to go down went down significantly,” Troche said. “We did this without alienating ourselves from the community. I think it’s really important to understand that because I've seen agencies come up with numbers like this and they essentially become the enemy of the community. We haven't done that. In fact, we've done quite the opposite. We have built relationships within the community.”

In addition to data-driven police work, command staff cited SPD’s esprit de corps and its ability to recruit experienced officers to the department.

“We're thankful to our recruiters hiring law enforcement officers with prior experience,” said Capt. Robert Armstrong of the Patrol Division. “They come with a whole set of tools and they're ready to go. They're easier to train and they can be fast-tracked. We have very motivated sergeants out there training the officers every day. Right now we're really feeling the culture and the morale is up. There's a feeling of family.”

Commissioner Erik Arroyo asked Troche which strategies he felt were most effective in achieving the 2023 numbers.

“I think the most important thing is our use of technology that we have in the city," Troche said. “No. 2, building the relationships with the community, I think is huge. It's something that's not quantitative. It's qualitative, and we can see the difference in the partnerships that we have.”

Part 1 Crimes Year-Over-Year
 20222023% Change
Rape/Forcible Sex252812.0%
Aggravated Assault257243-5.4%
Motor Vehicle Theft183144-21.3%
Total Index Offenses2,1051,765-16.2%

Visibility, Armstrong said during the presentation, is another factor. The patrol division employs multiple details such as homeless outreach and downtown traffic, and at shift change all those Chevrolet Tahoe patrol vehicles suggest an imposing presence of law enforcement personnel.

“The police Tahoes are big, they’re bright, they have high visibility,” Armstrong said. “It just shows high visibility when there are a lot of Tahoes on the road.”



Andrew Warfield

Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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