JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new survey by a national law enforcement group shows the rate of homicides in the first quarter of the year spiking significantly across the country, including in Jacksonville.
According to the survey conducted by Major Cities Chiefs Association, Jacksonville saw one of the biggest spikes in homicide in the entire county – going from 18 in the first quarter of 2016 of 2015 to 30 in the same period this year.
The survey looked at big cities across the country, breaking down crime rates in the first quarter of 2016 in comparison to the same time last year.
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith, who’s a retired Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer, said authorities are working hard to curb the violence.
“It’s something that the sheriff is aware of and he is really doing his best to deal with that by putting together this task force. And it’s difficult to do because there’s still a manpower shortage in Jacksonville in terms of police officers,” Smith said.
Smith credited gangs with the spike in homicides and said changing that can often be a matter of race within the agency.
“For example, if you have a city that has predominantly Mexican or Hispanic gangs, then those police departments will use Hispanic police officers to deal with that problem. That’s not really being done here in Jacksonville,” Smith said.
Smith did point to the gang units currently in place, crediting Sheriff Mike Williams’ efforts to ramp up anti-gang efforts as a step in the right direction.
“I’m going to be optimistic. They are trying their best to deal with this in so many different ways. There isn’t just on answer to this problem. You know, they have to fight this from so many different angles and so many different types of strategies,” Smith said.
As people across Duval County hope for a reason to be optimistic in 2017, News4Jax contacted JSO about the numbers in the survey.
It said the statistics don’t paint the full picture, pointing to higher homicide rates nationwide.
The Sheriff’s Office also said its team is making significant progress on cutting back violent crime, including adding overtime hours at the end of January, which the Sheriff’s Office said has cut down on crime significantly.