Source AP ©

Violent crimes' rate in Florida in 2006 is claimed high

Murders and other violent crimes' rate in Florida was very high last year.

The state is a leading U.S. destination for both foreign and domestic tourists.

Annual statistics on crime in the state were expected to be released later Tuesday, but preliminary numbers showed a surprisingly large jump in gun crimes, including murders, armed robberies and assaults. Overall, the state's crime rate continued a years-long downward trend.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement accidentally put some statistics on the agency's Web site Monday, but later removed them. The Orlando Sentinel newspaper reported that they showed a 42 percent increase in the number of gun murders.

"I understand ... there are some numbers that are disconcerting, particularly as it relates to murder and other violent crimes," Crist said Tuesday.

There were 1,129 murders in Florida in 2006, up 28 percent from 2005, according to the data cited by the newspaper. Armed robberies were up 20 percent, and aggravated assault with a gun went up 6 percent.

On the whole, violent crimes committed with guns were up 12.6 percent in 2006 over 2005, the data showed.

Despite the rise in gun crimes, Crist said it is not too easy to get a gun in Florida - but didn't elaborate on why gun crimes are going up so much.

Violent crime has gone up in recent years, but the increases have generally been small.

Crist said a new law this year would help reduce violent crimes by making it more likely that probation violators who have committed violent crimes will go back to prison. He has called the law the "anti-murder act."

"I've always been concerned about crime, violent and otherwise," Crist said. "That's why I wanted to get this anti-murder bill passed."

The data also showed that overall drug arrests went up in 2006 by 4.6 percent. Since 1996, the total number of drug arrests has doubled.