JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With six weeks left in 2017, Jacksonville has already reached 120 homicides, the same number as all 12 month of 2016.
The latest deadly violence was before dawn Tuesday when a man was shot and killed in his front yard while his family was inside their Westside home. Another man was killed in the front yard of a Southside home a few hours earlier, and there were four fatal shootings over the weekend.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has investigated more than 100 homicides in all but two of the last 10 years and has long been known as the murder capitol of Florida. The city is on pace this year to have the most killings since 2008, when there were 139 homicides.
According to News4Jax records, there have been 34 arrests resulting from the 120 homicides this year -- about a 30 percent clearance rate.
Chevie Green said the pain of losing her cousin, Jerry Brown Jr., to gun violence two years ago is made worse because no one is held accountable for his killing.
"You’d think you’d get better, but a certain smell or sound or song will just knock you back 100 feet," Green said. "If this person did it like that to us and to him, who else? What other family has been affected? What other family has been destroyed?"
Asked if there were any common factors in this year's homicides, the Sheriff's Office provided a statement:
The multitude of reasons why they occurred, the methods used in perpetrating the crimes and the relationships between the victim and suspect run the gamut. Of the unresolved cases this year, they continue to be active and until further information is released by the detectives, there is nothing further that can be discussed."
On Monday, the Sheriff's Office also noted that while homicides are up, because more of this year's deaths have been deemed justifiable -- not a crime -- there is no statistical increase in the number of murders this year compared to last that would indicate an upward trend.
"Every shooting resulting in death or injury is a concern in the community," JSO spokeswoman Lauri-Ellen Smith wrote. "But we have to be factual and accurate. Yes, there have been some tragic criminal events (murders) and they are all investigated. In some of the cases they have been solved by arrest or the suspect(s) have been identified."
Smith added that domestic murders are actually down this year.
Just as in last year's analysis, the ZIP code with the most killings this year, with 22 in 32209, but there have been 10 or more homicides within four other ZIP codes: 32210, 32206, 32246, 32254.
City Council members who represent that area of Jacksonville with the most homicides find the trend both disturbing and embarrassing.
"I am very concerned, disappointed and I just hope that we can stop this rate because it seems like every time you turn around, someone is getting killed," Group 5 Councilman-At-Large Samuel Newby said. "I'm sure the sheriff is working on getting this homicide rate down, but, I am really worried about it."
"This is alarming and we need to do better as a community," District 10 Councilman Reginald Brown said.
January was the deadliest month of the 2017, with 14 homicides. The least killings were in March, June, September and November, when there were nine.
The city recently funded 100 more police officers, but Brown says the homicide rate is bigger than policing communities.
"I think patrolling is good, but its not the answer that is going to stop folks from killing each other," Brown said. "What's going to stop folks from killing each other is taking personal responsibility and understanding that its OK to disagree."