The death of a 7-year-old girl caught in the crossfire of a robbery on the Westside 10 days ago seemed to galvanize Jacksonville in its fight against gun violence.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams credited hundreds of tips from the community to the arrest of several people, including two who are charged with murder. But that relatively quick resolution is an exception to the norm.
“Occasionally, individual case circumstances lead to relatively quick clearances within a matter of days or weeks," Williams said in a statement to News4Jax on Tuesday. "Other cases require much lengthier investigations that can last for months or years before they are solved and cleared."
News4Jax looked into the 66 deaths classified as murders in Duval County so far this year and found that only 14 of those cases had been cleared by detectives, either by arrest or other means.
Williams issued a statement Tuesday that it’s too early to judge the arrest rate for this year. He’s said the department’s clearance rate for murders in past years has been better than the national average.
By the numbers: Jacksonville's 2018 murders
According to News4Jax data, of 120 murders in Jacksonville in 2017, 44 were cleared. In 2016, of 107 murders, 50 were cleared. Williams cited statistics with a far higher clearance rate: 54.1 percent in 2017 and 59.4 percent in 2016. He said the national clearance rate in 2016 was 49.3 percent. The discrepancy in the numbers may be because the clearance is counted in the year the case was solved, not the year the murder occurred.
Justice Coalition Executive Director Mike Liles deals with crime victims every day and knows their frustration.
"It is easy to look at the numbers and blame the police department or the sheriff, but the simple truth is, our community is not as cooperative to the police as we once were," Liles said.
An open panel discussion Tuesday night at the Kids Hope Alliance, a newly-formed organization that oversees children's programs in Jacksonville, encouraged young people to give their ideas on how to combat crime.
"Everybody who came here tonight, wants to do more than just talk," said Mary Tobin, chief operating officer of the Kids Hope Alliance. "We want to come together to do something."
One suggestion came from Vincente Waugh, a Lee High School student in the EVAC program.
"A lot of people in our generation don't have a lot of activities to connect themselves with," Waugh said.
The young people said they're hoping to turn the murder stats around and they're eager to see Jacksonville grow, thrive and succeed.
"I think social media has way too much of an effect on our behavior," said Haleigh Ogelsby, who's on the Mayor's Young Leaders Advisory Council.
Below is Williams' full statement:
The investigation into and clearance of murder cases is a lengthy process that our JSO investigators work tirelessly on every day. Occasionally, individual case circumstances lead to relatively quick clearances within a matter of days or weeks. Other cases require much lengthier investigations that can last for months or years before they are solved and cleared. Most of the time these cases remain active for the entirety of that investigative time period. Taking a snapshot, midway through any given year results in merely that – a limited picture of an elaborate process which includes witness development, scientific evidence analysis at crime labs, and file building with the State Attorney, our partner in the clearance effort. "