JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville's mayor, sheriff and the state attorney on Wednesday announced a collective plan to fight gun crime in the city, including requesting a $250,000 investment in technology to more quickly match shell casings with criminals who fired guns during the crimes.
"If you're stupid enough to commit a crime in this city, specifically with a gun, this group of people are organized and together and are coming after you," Mayor Lenny Curry said.
Curry is asking the City Council to fund an emergency allocation to fund an Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS) that ties into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). The technology allows investigators to link guns used in a crime to other crimes much more rapidly, which leads to quicker arrests and prosecutions.
Sheriff Mike Williams will travel to Denver in April to study a similar system already getting results.
"The value in this technology is in its timeliness," State Attorney Melissa Nelson said. "Real-time leads, quickly connecting crime guns to offenders and linking different incidents, can make all the difference in solving crimes and, therefore, preventing crime. Law enforcement will have results in 24 to 48 hours instead of 12 to 18 months."
Curry made a point to spotlight the speed of his office's response to public safety issues and his willingness to allocate resources to those issues.
"When asked, we have invested in resources that are needed for public safety, and we will continue to do so swiftly," Curry said.
So far this year, 14 people have been killed by guns in Duval County, including several shootings between people who knew each other. One was a home invasion and another was the accidental shooting death of a 5-year-old girl.
Families of slain teens say investment should have been made years ago
While two families, who are still waiting for arrests to be made in their loved ones' deaths, are hopeful that the new technology will help solve crimes more quickly, they're also asking, "Why now?"
They believe that the investment should have been made years ago.
"We are still grieving. It's a very, very hard thing to deal with," said Chyann Hobbs.
Chyann Hobbs' younger brother, Maurice Hobbs, died in a double shooting last month in Jacksonville's Southside Estates neighborhood -- just two days after he turned 18.
The family continues to stand strong, but they still don't know who killed Maurice Hobbs. Now, they're questioning whether the new technology introduced by Curry on Wednesday could have helped bring them closure sooner.
"I feel, like, had it been done beforehand, it probably would've been a lot easier to solve everything, and to know who, what, when and where a lot faster, so we don't have to grieve long," Chyann Hobbs told News4Jax.
The grieving mother of 15-year-old Johnnie Carter, who was shot and killed last July, said the city should be investing millions, but wishes the technology had been in place sooner.
"There's a great chance the gun was an illegal gun and that it was used in a crime before, whether it was used by the person that committed that particular crime or not. So yes, that technology would have been greatly helpful," Erica Carter said.
The two families now hope the new tool can save others from going through long-term grief.
As family members wait for answers in Maurice Hobbs' death, they will continue to do what he loved -- making music to positively impact youth.
Chyann Hobbs recorded the song "Put Up Your Fist" after her brothers death. She said it highlights all the positive things young people should be doing instead of killing.