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City leaders want violent crime panel to be 'eyes and ears' of community

Mayor, City Council president Task Force on Safety & Crime Reduction

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Lenny Curry and City Council President Aaron Bowman laid out their vision for Jacksonville’s future at the Southside Rotary Club on Tuesday afternoon.

Among the topics discussed were the state of the city and budget, economic development and an update on the Task Force on Safety and Crime Reduction.

The city is forming a panel in the hopes of coming up with long-term solutions to decrease the city's violent crime rate that go beyond arrests and prosecution.

"How does the crime task force plan on reducing crime in our city? Well, I’ve given them a pretty big blank canvas and I'll ... recommend some committees that I want them to form," Bowman said. 

The task force will be made up of community members from all quadrants of the city.

"I want it to look like our city. I want it to be all areas of town, all races, all sexes,"  Bowman said. "Everyone has a piece of this and everyone’s got to play a part."

Bowman said the task force, which will be led by a civilian and a City Council member who will serve as co-chair, will have about 40 community members from fields including education, business and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. He said those members, with their boots on the ground, will help contribute crime preventative measures and mentorship programs to start intervention young.

APPLICATION: Task force member

"What I envision this task force to do is to be the eyes and ears of the entire community, the ability to get into neighborhoods, to have everyone involved," Bowman said. "They’re going to bring all the resources that they have to make recommendations and come tell us what we need to do."

The number of murders in Jacksonville, according to News4Jax records, is trending in the wrong direction:

In 2014, 93 people were killed.
In 2015, there were 96 murders.
In 2016, there were 108 murders.
Last year, there were 122 murders.
So far this year, 89 people have been murdered. 

On Friday, Curry, Sheriff Mike Williams and State Attorney Melissa Nelson announced the arrests of 41 people who they said were members of a gang known as the Rolling 20s that has operated in Jacksonville and beyond for at least the last three years. Police said Tuesday that they had made another arrest in the investigation. 

"What the people of Jacksonville need to know is there’s not these random, drive-by shootings. They’re not happening in random neighborhoods," Curry said. "Most of this is gang-on-gang activity, drug trade." 

According to the sheriff, gang activity accounts for 40 percent of all violence in Jacksonville.
The task force will aim to stop the violence, such as a shooting last month near a laundromat about a half-mile away from TIAA Bank Field.

"It's getting people engaged who want to be part of the solution," Curry said. "We all have to be a part of this. We all have to care about every neighborhood."

Legislation first has to be filed and the task force is expected to kick off in February. 

All submissions for task force members must be received by 5 p.m. Friday.

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