by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
The Sanibel Police Department released its crime and calls statistics from last year, which shows a surge in federally reportable crimes after Hurricane Ian struck the island on Sept. 28, 2022. There was an overall increase of 91 percent over 2021 with 64 percent of the reported crimes occurring after the storm.
“(Last year) was proceeding along normally and was positioned to be busier than 2021, mostly related to total calls for service and number of vehicles coming through the toll booth,” Sanibel Police Chief Bill Dalton wrote in the report. “Hurricane Ian struck…and changed everything.”
The data shows there was a sharp increase in burglaries and thefts following the devastating storm. Burglaries rose from 9 to 64, a whopping 610 percent increase, and 56 of the 64 burglaries were reported post Ian. Likewise, the report shows a 64 percent rise in thefts, from 44 to 72 with 35 reported after the storm.
“The incidents reported during the response and recovery period after Ian skewed traditional data,” Dalton said. He also said the number of burglaries and thefts would have been “statistically similar to 2021” had it not been for the storm.
He added that residential and business properties have been secured and reports of theft have since declined.
Other data from the report shows Sanibel experienced a significant reduction in assaults over 2021, down from 20 to just 3, an 85 percent difference. Vehicle theft reports went from two to three. And the total of non-federal crimes – such as trespass, drug violations, DUI, criminal traffic violations, criminal mischief and harassment – decreased 1 percent, from 910 to 898.
The total number of calls for service received by the police department declined by about 11 percent, falling from 73,823 in 2021 to 65,983 in 2022. The drop is likely due to the change in policing following Ian.
“A portion of the calls for service are self-initiated proactive area checks to deter criminal acts in high-risk areas, such as the fishing pier, beach accesses, business zones and speed detection details,” explained Dalton.
Those proactive area checks are a part the community-oriented policing to keep us safe, but they decreased after the storm because life-safety calls took precedence, as well as checkpoint monitoring and field interviews.
Additional statistics include:
Ordinance Violations: Primarily beach diminishment, noise violations and manatee zone infractions – down by 7 percent from 482 to 449.
In addition,Dalton’s report shows a 5 percent increase in overall arrests last year, from 98 to 103. However, drug arrests were down by 83 percent, from 12 to 2 and there was a 52 percent decrease in arrests for driving under the influence, from 27 to 13. Dalton also notes an 18 percent decrease in the number of accidents reported, falling from 158 to 130.
“Despite the reported increase (in burglaries and thefts), Sanibel remains a safe community, and the Sanibel Police Department is committed to maintaining a high level of service to residents and business owners,” Dalton said.
The crime analysis establishes the police department’s priorities and determines staff deployment. Dalton said his department will be submitting additional recommendations to patrol and investigative divisions to further combat crime, particularly in post-emergency situations.