JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The shooting death of a man whose body was found in an SUV in a Brentwood neighborhood Tuesday morning is the 135th homicide in Jacksonville this year. News4Jax data shows that 111 of those homicides have been ruled murders, while others are pending classification. A few were considered justified or cleared for other reasons.
With six weeks left in the year, the city has already exceeded the 131 homicides in all of 2018. Perhaps more disturbing, there have been 339 shootings this far in 2019 -- averaging more than one every day.
“Every shooting is a concern for us," State Attorney Melissa Nelson said. “We are working on it. It’s a priority for us our office -- a priority of my administration.”
The city is spending millions to combat the violence problem, including new programs like Cure Violence, ShotSpotter and other high-tech crime-fighting tools.
Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams are putting a lot of faith in Cure Violence, which launched in June. It treats violence more like a health epidemic and has people working in some of the most afflicted parts of the city trying to prevent problems before they spark shootings and killings.
The city’s coordinator of Cure Violence, Damian Cook, said they have seen progress in the targeted neighborhoods even though the number of violent crimes has gone up citywide. Cook said that community response has been one of acceptance and that the Cure Violence staff has already mediated and peacefully resolved 30 situations that could have turned violent.
“We don’t know if it’s making a dent in it, if it’s having an effect, but what we do know is: The numbers are going up," News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said of the killings in the city.
Jefferson said violent crime is occurring all over Jacksonville, not just in areas targeted by Cure Violence. Of the 11 homicides so far in November, six of them were east of the St. Johns River -- far from the city’s normal zones for violence.
“The fact that it’s spreading simply means that crime has no prejudice," Jefferson said. “It can happen anywhere. We always have to be conscious of that and be aware of our surroundings.”