This is the blog for Robert Vincent, Chief of Police for the Gulfport (Florida) Police Department. Please feel free to leave comments, but keep in mind that anything appearing on this page may be subject to retention and disclosure in accordance with Florida public records law.

Please keep your posts clean and respectful. Comments are subject to review, and I do not permit lewdness, obscenity, or personal attacks.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Wards and Crime Don't Mix

The Gulfport municipal charter says that the city shall be divided into four wards for the purpose of electing a representative government.  Boundaries for these wards are not defined by the charter; council may alter them at any time, so long as they maintain an equitable population distribution. While population is the only thing where equality is required, it is only natural for residents to draw other comparisons between the wards. One recently popular example is crime.

The police department has never routinely measured or compared crime by ward, but online databases now allow anybody with a computer to do just that. The result is that I am now frequently asked to explain why there is a difference in crime between the wards. Although it’s never said, the implication behind this question is that crime in all four wards should be equal. The reality is that a comparison of wards based on crime is unfair and unrealistic.

Consider the fact that for many decades, the northeast area of Gulfport has typically experienced more crime than other sections of the city. Some like to suggest that this is because of its closer proximity to the much-higher-crime neighborhoods to the east. While that certainly may have some bearing, there are other factors to consider as well. For example, all three public schools are located in this area. That alone brings in an additional 3,000 people a day, effectively doubling the population of Ward 4. This area is also home to our largest retail outlets, employing scores and servicing hundreds more daily.

By contrast, Ward 1 has considerably less crime, but it is almost exclusively residential and has no institutional or large commercial establishments. Also, the majority of the homes are completely within privately-owned developments where visitors are only allowed entry with permission from those who live there.  

The police department deploys its resources based on the location of the crime, and by design, we do not allow politics or ward boundaries to factor into those decisions. This practice explains why our patrol zones do not align with the wards. Three zones cover the east side, while the west is a zone by itself. This deployment puts police officers in the best position not only to respond to crime as it occurs, but to implement prevention and abatement strategies where they are most needed.

If you are experiencing a problem in your area, please let me know, or use this page to contact a patrol supervisor directly.