Sheriff candidates react to new crime statistics

Sheriff Rutherford says violent crime went up significantly

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sheriff John Rutherford released some alarming new crime numbers during his live call-in show Thursday afternoon, and with the election for sheriff just one month away, the candidates are reacting. 

Candidates for the sheriff position met at Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach for an open forum Thursday and had some thoughts on Rutherford's startling new numbers.

According to Sheriff Rutherford, violent crime is going up significantly. He said murder is up 35 percent. Rape is up 36 percent and aggravated assault is up 21.24 percent. The sheriff went on to say the violent crime problem has a lot to do with the city cutting back on resources.

Candidates Ken Jefferson and Mike Williams attended the open forum, along with mayoral candidates Alvin Brown and Lenny Curry. Both men said they were surprised by the numbers and both had ideas on how to combat it.

"But if you put more officers on the street you can drive down crime. You have to be smart about it and strategic about it. But in simplest terms, yes that does work. Adding those officers who were lost over the last several years due to budget cuts is going to help us drive that number back down," Williams said.

"Now our community will start resonating with us and working with us because that trust is being built back up. Then we can have a proactive way to fight this crime because they'll be telling us things going on in their neighborhood without us having to try and figure out or be reactive," Jefferson said.

Voters will be able to hear from both candidates on Wednesday, May 13, when News4JAX partners with Jacksonville University for a live debate at 8 p.m.

On Thursday, May 14, News4Jax and JU are holding a debate with mayoral candidates Brown and Curry.

Channel 4's Kent Justice will moderate both debates, and you can watch them live on Channel 4 and News4Jax.com.

The general election will be held May 19.

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