JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One of the most violent areas of Jacksonville could soon be seeing a stronger effort to fight crime.
The 32209 ZIP code in Northwest Jacksonville has the highest number of murders in city this year, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union.
The I-TEAM took an in-depth look at the number of homicides in the area near northwest Jacksonville over the last two years.
It has seen 10 homicides in the first four months of 2016:
- Jan. 1: Fredrick Cuffie, 70, is shot to death at his home on McConihe Street.
- Jan. 27: George Ashley, 26, and Brittany White, 21, are shot to death in a car on Westbrook Circle West. Their 6-month-old baby is not hurt.
- Jan. 28: Jerry Brown, 22, is killed in a drive-by shooting while sitting in his car on Henrietta Street.
- Feb. 5: Barry Johnson, 46, is fatally stabbed in the neck with a broken golf club on West 31st Street.
- March 27: Michael Wright, 62, is shot to death at the Hollybrook Apartments on Kings Street.
- March 30: JSO believes Jerome Johnson, 58, has met with foul play, after a lot of blood is found at his home on West 22nd Street. He's missing.
- March 31: Darrell Rutledge, 20, is killed and another man is wounded in a drive-by shooting at West 12th Street.
- April 21: Aaliyah Lewis, 2, dies at UF Health after she is injured at her home on Woodland Street South.
- April 27: A man is found shot to death in a yard on Westbrook Circle East.
There were 16 homicides for the entire year in 2015. This time last year, there had been four homicides in that area.
Darryl Terrell and Belinda Spears have lived in a neighborhood in the 32209 ZIP code for over seven years.
They're not far from the scene of the latest homicide in the area. And two people were killed nearby last January while sitting in their car.
“When I first moved in, it was bad. It was very bad,” Terrell said. “It's been cleaned up since then, but lately we have been noticing incidents, a lot more incidents.”
Terrell said police have patrolled in the area but he hasn't seen any officers lately.
Terrell and Spears said they see officers after the crimes are committed.
Others said Thursday that they were surprised to hear that the area is so violent.
“Looking at it from the outside, it doesn't look -- it's peaceful. It's nice,” Chris McKenzie said. “You don't see cars speeding by, people selling drugs on the corner, but at the same time to hear these things happening, it's concerning.”
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith met the I-TEAM in the area and talked about the problems and what the sheriff department plans to do about them.
“I am not surprised (the area is dangerous), because gang activity has really increased toward the end of last year and (the beginning of) this year,” Smith said. “Nine to 10 homicides is a lot for one ZIP code, but because of the increased gang activity and retaliation, I am really not that surprised.”
The Sheriff's Office homicide division said that only some of this year's homicides are related to gangs and they are already responding with a new initiative anti-crime initiative.
“It's some type of violent crime impact team,” Smith explained. “These initiatives (have happened) before, like operation Safe Streets and different things like that, but this one seems to involve a lot more within the sheriffs office. You have people from the SWAT team the narcotics division, homicide, violent crime unit, that type a thing.”
The sheriff's office released a statement about the high-crime area Thursday:
“We continue to have extra policemen working in challenged neighborhoods and are leveraging the overtime dollars to reduce violence and shootings. As for the long-term strategies for reducing violence, we continue to work with community stakeholders building the necessary engagement and are moving forward.”