JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Keeping a lid on crime during this pandemic is proving challenging for Jacksonville, especially after a violent weekend that included two officer-involved shootings.
While violent crime has dropped in many major cities, that hasn’t been the case in Jacksonville. This month, there have been 10 homicides and 23 people shot, according to News4Jax records, more than the same time last year.
For perspective, there were 55 people were shot and 18 homicides last month, which is three times higher than the number of homicides reported in March 2019.
It’s not for a lack of effort on the part of police, according to Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, who said that 24 felons were arrested and six guns taken off the streets over the weekend.
“We have seen a spike in domestic issues and that is probably something you can directly relate to quarantine,” he said. “We have seen a couple of mental health issues pop up. Quarantine is driving some of those people to deteriorate.”
The sheriff noted that he has seen a decrease in burglaries and property crime lately, but specific figures for that trend weren’t immediately available.
Williams noted that his officers have received a lot of support from the community.
“We have an energetic workforce, really dialed in and focused, working every day, morale is high,” he said. “We have the resources to do the work. We’re spread thin and we’re very busy, but I am proud of the men and women of JSO.”
Mayor Lenny Curry said Monday that the community needs to pitch in to help combat violent crime the same way it has with the public health crisis.
“We can’t ignore it as a community,” Curry said. “And I hope we can come out of this all agreed that we have to be in that fight together.”
For nonprofit anti-crime organizations like M.A.D. D.A.D.S. Jacksonville, the mission remains the same, even if the circumstances have drastically changed.
Donald Foy, the group’s president, noted that the group continues to push people to break the code of silence. But the organization’s face-to-face efforts are on hold as officials and health experts urge people to practice social distancing.
“During the pandemic, the only way we have been able to do it is through our Facebook. These guys are going to do what they’re going to do. Even with the pandemic doing like it is, they’re still out here shooting and killing each other,” Foy said.
Jo-Lee Manning, executive director of the Justice Coalition, said it’s not surprising to see crime crop up with so many people out of work and struggling to make ends meet.
“Whether it’s robberies and something goes wrong and they have a gun and they use it, a lot of it is the financial strain that we’re all under right now,” Manning said.
“I am hopeful the arrests they have made is going to help us in the long term as far as the crime rate by getting some of these guns and felons off the street,” she noted.
Anyone with information related to any recent crimes is asked to call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at 904-630-0500 or First Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.