Immediate To quickly reduce the murder rate in Jacksonville, the highest priority strategies are to impact the murders committed by young men acting in groups and to get guns off the street.
Recommendation 1. Target the killing among young adult men: Jacksonville has many young men (ages 18-35), particularly young black men, who tend to associate in groups drawn into illegal and violent behavior that directly leads to murder rate. While these groups may not be organized as ?gangs? (as the term is popularly understood), the reality on the street is that they are affected by group dynamics that often escalate into violence over perceived insults and ?disrespect.? The group norms they set and exhibit influence the upcoming generation of youth in these neighborhoods, who begin to form similar groups while in middle school. The Mayor, through expansion of the Seeds of Change: Growing Great Neighborhoods initiative, should partner with local neighborhood leaders and organizations, faith-based leaders, and MAD DADS, to implement the Ceasefire process used successfully in Boston?s Operation Ceasefire. This approach enlists the community in communicating a clear, combined message to targeted young people that they are part of the community, their behavior is damaging the community, and these behaviors must stop. This proven process has quickly and dramatically reduced murders in Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, and other U.S. cities. For this approach to work, it must be led by a catalyst (individual or organization) from within Jacksonville?s black community. While government can and must support the initiative, too much mistrust exists for this effort to be led by existing government institutions. The committee strongly recommends bringing in an outside expert facilitator to assist with this process and train local facilitators to continue the work. The Jacksonville Sheriff?s Office and State Attorney?s Office should fully support this initiative by sending young people the message that the entire group will be held accountable if a member of the group kills. In conjunction with this initiative, all community social service organizations, education institutions, and employers should step forward with assistance to young people seeking a way out of violent, self-destructive behaviors. Recommendation 2. Get illegal guns off the street: Anger and violence more readily result in murder if a firearm is present. Jacksonville has too many illegal guns in the community, too many people with guns who should not have them, and too easy access to firearms. The Jacksonville Sheriff?s Office should increasingly target those who use guns to commit crimes, and work to ensure that violent offenders with firearms are arrested and removed from the community. The Jacksonville Sheriff?s Office, with support from the Mayor and the business community, should implement a Gun Bounty Program, similar to the one in Charleston, South Carolina. The gun bounty program (not a gun buyback program) should include substantial financial rewards for information leading to arrests and confiscation of illegal guns. With law enforcement, the State Attorney?s Office, and the judicial system working together, the program should include other incentives for turning in illicit guns, such as reduced sentencing in a plea bargain agreement for offenders facing criminal charges. The Jacksonville Sheriff?s Office should continue to work with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to attack on illicit firearm trafficking through the Operation Safe Streets initiative, using the Operation Ceasefire model.
Long-Term Preventing future murders requires addressing a series of underlying problems and risk factors identified in this report. While actions to lower the murder rate cannot wait until Jacksonville solves all social ills, serious efforts to reduce violence must include strong, sustained efforts to deal with the specific factors that often lead to violent behavior.
Recommendation 3. Admit and address racism: The cycle of violence in the community will not end until Jacksonville admits and addresses its racism problem. Racial discrimination and race-based disparities fuel a cultural divide and a sense of hopelessness that breeds violence. Previous JCCI studies, including Young Black Males, Beyond the Talk: Improving Race Relations, and the Race Relations Progress Report, have outlined racial disparities and incidents of racism in the community and recommended actions to address the problems. Rather than creating new recommendations, the committee strongly recommends the implementation of the recommended actions from these studies. Recommendation 4. Fund successful programs: If Jacksonville is serious about addressing the murder rate, it must dramatically increase dedicated funding for successful programs and expand them where appropriate. Prevention efforts cost money up front, but provide an enormous return on investment. Successful efforts to reduce violence too often are limited in the numbers they can serve or eliminated in future funding cycles in favor of untried programs. The Human Services Council should assess existing prevention programs and recommend to its funding partners, including the City of Jacksonville, to increase funding for early violence prevention and intervention programs that work, such as the Intimate Violence Enhanced Services Team (INVEST) and the Ready4Work program. Recommendation 5. Provide strong positive male role models: The community must do more to provide strong male role models for young men in Jacksonville, especially those currently lacking a positive father figure in their lives. Murder is primarily a male phenomenon in Jacksonville, with 91 percent of known murder suspects and 76 percent of victims being men. The Human Services Council and the United Way of Northeast Florida?s Helping At-Risk Students Achieve initiative, in partnership with the City Council and other leaders of the local mentoring movement, should support, fund, publicize, and expand the capacity of its mentoring programs, such as the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for children with an incarcerated parent, to target these young men. Mentoring can help these young men not only academically, but also professionally as they become a positive contribution to society and become positive role models for others. For example, the PACE Center for Girls is a successful school program targeting at-risk girls; similar programs directly targeted to young males, such as Jacksonville Marine Institute, should be created or expanded. Recommendation 6. Improve economic opportunity: Jacksonville needs to break its cycle of poverty and exclusion by providing more economic opportunity and resources, especially to young people. Job skills training, a public transportation system that better links jobs and the workforce, and access to jobs that pay a living wage are critical. WorkSource, the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce, the African American Chamber of Commerce, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and the City of Jacksonville need to direct specific attention to the needs of alienated young black men. The strategies outlined in the Blueprint for Prosperity (and other economic development initiatives) to raise per capita income should include measures of geography, racial disparity, and age, such as unemployment data by race and neighborhood, to focus efforts on improving opportunity in the highest-risk neighborhoods. Recommendation 7. Improve the relationship between law enforcement and the community: The Jacksonville Sheriff?s Office should accelerate its efforts to implement community policing techniques, using models successfully implemented in communities such as Tampa and San Diego. For too many people in too many neighborhoods law enforcement is not seen as a partner or protector. To change these attitudes toward the police, the community and law enforcement must work together to address the murder rate. In addition, employees of the Jacksonville Sheriff?s Office should expand participation in community dialogues with the neighborhoods they serve, using the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission?s Study Circles model, as outlined in the Growing Great Neighborhoods initiative. Recommendation 8. Address the culture of violence: Jacksonville needs a community culture that has greater respect for others and values life more highly. The Mayor?s Office of Faith and Community Based Partnerships should coordinate efforts of faith-based organizations and coalitions as they work together to engage the community in speaking out forcefully against violence and participating in anti-violence initiatives. Duval County Public Schools should place greater emphasis on its existing nonviolence curriculum, involving the community as needed to share the message. Recommendation 9. Differentiate drug traffickers from users: Illegal drug markets are a scourge in Jacksonville, feeding addiction and encouraging violence and murder. Traffickers in illegal drugs should be targeted and punished; users of illegal drugs should receive treatment. The committee supports a two-pronged approach: The committee by no means endorses drug use. However, Jacksonville?s criminal justice system should continue to focus law enforcement efforts primarily on drug traffickers, rather than users. The Florida Department of Children and Families District 4 Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Office should lead a community effort to provide more treatment facilities for those already addicted to drugs and successful prevention programs to keep people from becoming addicted. Recommendation 10. Target domestic violence: Jacksonville has effective programs to assist children who witness violence and programs for intervention in potentially lethal domestic violence situations. The problem is that these programs are insufficiently funded to meet the community?s needs. Jacksonville needs to reprioritize its funding because violence is a learned behavior, and too often that violence is learned at home. The City of Jacksonville, the United Way of Northeast Florida, the Department of Children and Families, the Jacksonville Children?s Commission, and faith-based institutions must fully support and expand existing domestic violence prevention and intervention projects to meet community needs. In addition, the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court should create a Domestic Violence Court, similar to the Drug Court model, to improve consistency in intervention in domestic violence cases. The Fourth Judicial Circuit Court should mandate ongoing judicial training in domestic violence issues for all judges. Recommendation 11. Help children succeed in school: Jacksonville has too many children who leave school without graduating. This is of particular concern because education is critical to creating an engaged, productive life in the community. Poor education and low literacy are risk factors for criminal activity and violent behavior, with high rates of high school dropouts among those incarcerated. Duval County Public Schools should eliminate out-of-school suspensions as punishment, since that sends children away from school and can provide opportunities for delinquent behavior. The Duval County Public Schools should expand its work with the community to reduce the dropout rate, decrease truancy, and keep children in school, regardless of FCAT implications. The United Way of Northeast Florida?s Helping At-Risk Students Achieve initiative should work with the Jacksonville Children?s Commission and other entities to expand after-school programs that encourage student achievement and help parents get involved in their children?s education.
Recommendation 12. Rehabilitate inmates and ex-offenders: Offenders need to be punished. However, for those who go to prison and pay their debt to society, the obstacles to re-entry into society are often far too high, encouraging marginalization, hopelessness, and a return to antisocial activity and violence. Lower barriers to re-entry and transitional services for released offenders can help reduce violence in the community. For those already involved in criminal activity and the criminal justice system, rehabilitation efforts can decrease recidivism and bring people back as contributors to and protectors of a safer community. Facilitate re-entry into the community: The Jacksonville Re-Entry Center is a major step forward in addressing the service needs of ex-offenders. However, the transitional needs of ex-offenders continue to outstrip the services available. The Jacksonville Sheriff?s Office Department of Corrections should lead a community effort to provide more transition support for ex-offenders, enhancing current transitional programs and increasing the number and availability of such programs. Businesses should partner with agencies helping ex-offenders. Models such as the Delancey Street Project in San Francisco should be considered for Jacksonville. Mentor inmates to help turn them around: The Jacksonville community should expand on current successful efforts like Inside/Outside House to provide support for juvenile and adult offenders to turn their lives around. The Department of Corrections should involve the faith community, businesses, and others in providing mentors for those in the system who will continue mentoring the ex-offenders as they transition back into the community. Prepare inmates for employment after release: The Florida Legislature should make employment skills training mandatory for all inmates of the state prison system. Review sentencing guidelines: The Florida Legislature should review state sentencing guidelines, especially those that classify certain non-violent offenses as felonies, to remove lifetime stigmatization and employment barriers for those who have served their sentences. The continuing long-term impact of passing a $300 bad check should not be the same as engaging in drug trafficking, for example. At the same time, the Legislature and the Governor should review the process for restoration of rights for ex-offenders, easing restrictions for rehabilitated ex-offenders.