State attorney, mayor, sheriff say cooperation key to fighting gun violence

Jacksonville's top leaders say gun violence dropped slightly in 2018

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With violence in Jacksonville dominating headlines, the city's mayor, sheriff and state attorney want everyone to know just-released crime numbers show a slight dip in murders and other gun violence last year.

Mayor Lenny Curry, Sheriff Mike Williams and Fourth District State Attorney Melissa Nelson said that things are finally pointing in the right direction, but there's still a long way to go.

RELATED: 2018 ends as violently as it began

Williams, Curry and Nelson told News4Jax that after 3½ years of working together against violent crime, they're making a difference, and provided new statistics to back it up. 

The data, provided by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Crime Analysis Unit, comparing 2017 with 2018 shows a slight decrease in non-domestic murders, shooting/stabbings, robberies or other violent crime where a person was shot.

"We do know you've got a small number of people in the community that commits (crime), a significant portion of the violence, and that's where the efforts are directed," Williams said. "So every time we remove one of them from the community yes we have a positive impact there."

Curry said there's no reason to celebrate the small decline in murders and other violent crimes between the two recent years, but he sees it as a trend.

"One murder, one homicide is one too many. Every life matters in our city to all three of us," Curry said.

Jacksonville homicides over the past decade

Source: JSO, News4Jax data

The trio of leaders said the key is that they're all rowing in the same direction against the bad actors in Jacksonville. They attributed the decline to their close relationship, investment and consistency in their efforts, including eliminating gangs and drug activity.

"We share information. We share ideas. We challenge one another with those ideas and how they would work and how you can really you know who, really where it should sit," Nelson said. "That's important because the community should have confidence in the fact that we are communicating with one another about all this violence because it affects everybody in our community."

Curry and Williams are up for re-election this spring and Nelson's first term will end in 2020. Is there a political motive for talking about a reduction in crime?

"I know otherwise from working closely with the Sheriff's Office and the mayor's office about this topic when no one is looking and no one's watching," Nelson said. "I think this is our obligation to get together and tell the public what the data is showing."

Curry said his only goal is a safer Jacksonville -- end of story.

"I've done exactly what I told the people of Jacksonville I'm going to do, and that is: invest in public safety, work together ... to save more lives. And we're starting to see some results," Curry said. "(I'm) not happy with where we are, but we're headed in the right direction finally after a long time."

"I would say we've been talking about this for four years. This is not new," Williams said. "I can see the criticism if this topic never came up. But literally, this has been top of mind (in) almost every conversation for almost four years now."

The numbers Curry provided show a 30 percent increase in violent crimes leading into the 2015 elections. Curry said the numbers flattened for a couple years, then showed this slight improvement.

About the Author: