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The Northwest Florida Daily News is reporting on the rash of homicides that have occurred in Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa County this year, with the newspaper reporting that the city of 21,000 people is nearing the rankings of the “Murder Capitals of America for 2015,” according to neighborhoodscout.com.

This year an unprecedented spike in the number of homicides has, statistically at any rate, placed both the city and Okaloosa County smack dab in the middle of that very conversation.

There have been eight confirmed homicides in Okaloosa County this year, with four of them occurring in Fort Walton Beach. 

But city numbers could easily grow by two, “based on how certain decisions are made” by forensics experts examining evidence in death cases still under investigation, according to Fort Walton Beach Police Chief Ted Litschauer.

Despite a spike in what officials declare “random” homicides in 2015, the overall long-term crime and murder rates in these communities is far below the state and national averages. In fact, Okaloosa County’s murder rate over the past decade is just one-third the state average.

Over the last 10 years, the murder rate in Fort Walton Beach averaged 4.2 per 100,000 people and in Okaloosa County it averaged 1.8 per 100,000 people. In the same period, Florida’s murder rate was 5.5. For the U.S., it was 5.1 for every 100,000 people.

“Each of the homicides has involved family relationships and/or illicit drugs,” said Fort Walton Beach Police Chief Ted Litschauer. Litschauer and local officials aren’t convinced the area has become a dangerous place to live and he added he’s confident that this year’s homicide numbers are an anomaly.

As we reported last month, Fort Walton Beach was rated among the “Top 100 Small Towns in America” for 2015, based, in part, on low crime rates over a long-term period.


Mapping the Murders

Murder by the numbers

Fort Walton Beach
Year No. By Firearm
2015 4* 4*
2014 0 0
2013 2 2
2012 1 1
2011 3 0
2010 1 1
2009 1 0
2008 0 0
2007 0 0
2006 1 0
2005 1 0
2004 0 0

* There are two fatalities still being investigated that could result in a determination of homicide.

Okaloosa County
Population 190,666
Year No. By Firearm
2015 8 8
2014 3 0
2013 4 3
2012 2 1
2011 4 1
2010 3 3
2009 5 3
2008 3 1
2007 4 1
2006 5 1
2005 3 1
2004 3 1

 

Bay County
Population 170,781
Year No. By Firearm
2015 10 6
2014 17 15
2013 8 6
2012 9 5
2011 12 7
2010 12 9
2009 9 4
2008 11 5
2007 8 5
2006 5 3
2005 4 2
Walton County
Population 59,793
Year No. By Firearm
2015 0 0
2014 0 0
2013 3 0
2012 1 1
2011 3 2
2010 2 0
2009 5 5
2008 1 1
2007 0 0
2006 2 0
2005 3 2
2004 3 3
Santa Rosa County
Population 159,785
Year No. By Firearm
2015 1 1
2014 5 4
2013 3 1
2012 0 0
2011 2 1
2010 6 5
2009 0 0
2008 2 1
2007 4 1
2006 3 0
2005 2 1
2004 5 0
Escambia County
Population 303,907
Year No. By Firearm
2015 17 11
2014 21 14
2013 26 19
2012 22 18
2011 16 10
2010 29 16
2009 18 14
2008 22 18
2007 20 11
2006 11 3
2005 10 3
2004 19 4
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