Haines City Police Chief Jim Elensky (photo provided)
HAINES CITY — For the third year in a row, Haines City is among Florida’s safest cities and officials are chalking that up to smart police work.
SafeWise.com, which researches, tests, and reviews home security systems, listed Haines City as one of the 50 safest cities in Florida for 2021. It is the only Polk County city to crack the top 50 on the SafeWise list. The organization uses data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to calculate its annual report on the safest cities in the Sunshine State.
“For the hard work of our staff to be recognized now for three years in a row is an honor,” Haines City Police Chief Jim Elensky said. “It’s great to serve a growing, thriving community, but we can’t be complacent. We’ll continue to work with City Manager Deric Feacher and his supportive administration and our supportive City Commission to ensure that we have the technology, equipment and manpower needed to keep this momentum going.”
HCPD spokesman Mike Ferugson said they use intelligence-led policing, which utilizes a mapping system that tracks all crimes, locates ‘hot spots,’ and picks up on patterns. HCPD also communicates with neighboring agencies to see if crimes are connected there.
“When I became chief in 2017, I implemented an intelligence-led policing model that allows us to be proactive instead of reactive,” Elensky added. “We continuously monitor crime trends, examine our suppression strategies and make sure we have our officers in the right place. The results speak for themselves.”
It’s not just a security research company that says Haines City is safe. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Uniform Crime Report, the crime rate in Haines City fell by 22% last year to 1,643 crimes per 100,000 residents – the lowest where data was available and likely, the lowest ever for the city.
In addition to the overall crime rate falling in 2020, Haines City saw the violent crime rate decrease by 6.4%, while the property crime rate fell by 23.5%, according to the UCR. It was the second year in a row that the property crime rate fell by more than 10%.
With a population of nearly 26,000, Haines City was ranked 45 by SafeWise. Marco Island was ranked first in the state for safety, with Parkland, Weston, Winter Springs, and North Palm Beach in the top five.
Other Polk County towns on the list are:
- • 67 — Lake Wales
- • 83 — Lakeland
- • 85 — Winter Haven
- • 92 — Bartow
- • 109 — Auburndale
According to SafeWise, Florida is among the most concerned-about-safety states in the country, with 59% of respondents saying they feel daily concern for their safety. Florida was the fourth in the nation for highest levels of concern over package theft and COVID-19. Package theft affected 22% of respondents, making it the top concern in Florida among respondents.
As in Haines City, crime rates in the Sunshine State remain on par with the rest of the country. Violent crime remained the same as last year and property crime rates have been dropping since 2019.
Ledger reporter Kimberly C. Moore can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7514. Follow her on Twitter at @KMooreTheLedger.
SafeWise.com’s top 10 safest Florida cities:
- 1. Marco Island
- 2. Parkland
- 3. Weston
- 4. Winter Springs
- 5. North Palm Beach
- 6. Oviedo
- 7. Cooper City
- 8. Safety Harbor
- 9. Minneola
- 10. Sweetwater