Victims' survivors look for closure; MAD Dads looks for solutions
You may have looked at crime statistics and noticed an alarming number of murders near where you live -- many of which are unsolved.
Jacksonville has for many years topped the list of most murders in the state. So far this year, there have been at least 83, according to Jacksonville Sheriff's Office records.
One of those victims was 22-year-old Amber Bass.
"She was home every night when she was supposed to be," said her sister, Robin Lezcano.
Lezcano said there was no clear reason as to why anyone would want to kill the young woman, whom the family describes as sweet and caring.
"She wasn't part of any kind of shady scene, she didn't do drugs, she didn't go to the clubs, she didn't hangout with questionable people," said Lecanzo. "She was an honest, hard working, young woman who was about to start college again."
Homicide detectives said at the crime scene in July that someone robbed and killed Bass in her driveway of her Westside subdivision. Four months later, her family remains devastated, and fearful for many reasons.
"No one has been caught and her voice is just slowly disappearing into that cold case file," said Bass' sister.
Bass is one of dozens of murder cases in Jacksonville that remain unsolved. Whoever killed teenagers Jazmine Shelton and Megan Simmons is still out there, as well as the person or people that took four lives in a shooting in Murray Hill last week. The list goes on and on.
People like Pete Singer say enough is enough. He's made a sign listing some of the unsolved cases.
"It's so wrong to take a life, and we know there's people out there that know about all these cases," said Singer. "We need them to step up, do the right thing, make the call to Crime Stoppers."
So how do we try to stop this epidemic from getting worse? How do we keep the list from getting longer?
"We can't depend upon law-enforcement to do everything," said Donald Foy, president of the local chapter of MAD Dads. "We as a neighborhood have got to do things. We've got to stand up to be able to take back our neighborhoods."
Foy said he is trying to find a solution to the problem.
"We have a generation here who, they're not fearing death, and they're not fearing taking a life."
Foy and others with his group have been fighting for peace for years. Chances are you've seen their community walks before. The group is also putting together events for kids to keep them on the right track and teach them skills to stay away from all that is bad.
The message is so simple, but hard to grasp for so many people. A life of crime is no way to live.
Lately, Foy and MAD Dads have put a special focus on recently released offenders. They think helping them is one of the keys to a safer city.
"We're going to be able to help supply them with the jobs," said Foy. "We've got to supply them with housing. So they don't have to go back to the streets with the drugs are."
The mission is to save our streets. Some say it is impossible, but it's an effort groups like Mad Dads and the families of those killed in senseless acts of violence say is worth the work so that no one else joins the league of families who've lost loved ones.
"It's a club that nobody should be ever have to be apart of, but there are just, it wasn't just the victim that the life was shattered for, it's all these families, it's the moms and the sisters and the brothers, and fathers and grandfathers," said Lecanzo.
Police say they're still looking for information on a light-colored vehicle (picture, left) seen in the area when Amber Bass was killed. They're also looking for her purse (similar to sketch on right). If you know anything about her case, or any others, call JSO at 904-630-0500 or you can be anonymous and let First Coast Crime Stoppers know at 1-866-845-TIPS. Crime Stoppers tipsters are eligible for cash rewards if an arrest is made.
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