JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A list of the most likely places where residents could become a victim of a violent crime has been released to City Council members from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. The crimes recorded include rapes, robberies, abductions and aggravated batteries that were reported over the past two years.
The statistics were ordered by City Councilwoman Denise Lee, chair of the blight committee. She is trying to drill down to the reasons why the highlighted areas are plagued with crime year after year.
The violent hot spots are in apartment complexes, at intersections, even in close proximity to schools and community centers. Lee also pointed out that the areas are dangerous hot spots for city workers, who could find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The top five hot spots, according to the JSO report, were:
According to the recently reported statistics, Roosevelt Gardens apartments comes in at the top of the list. Just two months ago, a man was the victim of a drive-by shooting there. Over the past two years, 150 people reported being the victim of violent crime.
The second most violent hot spot in Jacksonville is at the Intersection of Moncrief Road West and 35th Street. Police responded to 114 violent crimes over a two-year period in the area, which is directly across the street from the Clanzel Brown Community Center.
"Just two weeks ago, we had a shooting out here, and my son was playing ball, and if he hadn't kicked me in the leg, I might have gotten shot," Serena Harris said.
Not too far up the road at the Washington Heights apartment complex, 104 violent incidents were reported to police from 2012 to 2014. Harris isn't the only one who found herself ducking at the sound of gunfire.
Labaryian Davis is also concerned about his children.
"(We) try to shelter our kids and keep them in the house, because a bullet doesn't have no name," Davis said. "We just duck and try to hide from stuff."
Coming in at No. 4 for violent crimes is the intersection of Main and Beaver streets, a popular intersection for the city's homeless. The area had 90 incidents reported in the two-year period.
And at No. 5, Eureka Gardens on the Westside had 87 violent crimes reported. The violence in all of the highlighted areas happened both during the day and at night.
Lee said the common denominator is that each of the areas lacks organized community groups.
"Where there are no community-based organizations, crime is high, and where there are organizations that meet often, you will find there is less crime," Lee said.
Combating violence at Eureka Gardens
The Eureka Gardens apartment complex near Cassat Avenue and Normandy Boulevard has been notoriously plagued by crime, including several murders.
A committee of residents has had enough of the violence and is working to reduce crime in the area by working with a local ministry.
"I think we're making great progress, and so I'm proud of the residents and how they're stepping up," said Pastor Mark Griffin, with Wayman Ministries.
Starting Monday, Wayman Ministries will be hosting a summer camp for children who live at the complex. The ministry planned for 90 children, but 140 signed up.
Griffin said they'll make room to accommodate everyone.
"These are young people and parents that want to find something constructive for their kids to do, as opposed to hanging out all day," Griffin said.
City Councilman Warren Jones, whose term expires in July, has asked the Department of Housing and Urban Development to officially withdraw Section 8 housing vouchers at Eureka Gardens, until its owners and managers take steps to make the complex safer.
That federal money is the main source of housing funds for many who live in the complex, and without the vouchers, a large portion of the 400 residents at the complex would have no way to pay rent.
"There has been a lot of unrest from the residents. They're calling me, asking me, 'Pastor, where are we going? Where are we going to move to? We don't have anywhere to go,'" Griffin said.
Jones introduced a resolution last month that's making its way through the City Council.
Meanwhile, Griffin said even though there have been improvements in reducing crime at the complex, more work needs to be done.