JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Violent crime continues in Jacksonville amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Within the first 20 days of May, 20 people have been shot. Eight of those are listed as homicides, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and one an accidental shooting death.
Three shootings overnight Tuesday brought this year’s total to 200 people shot, according to News4Jax records. The city did not pass 200 shootings until mid-July last year.
A total of 389 people were shot in all of 2019. This year, Jacksonville is already more than halfway to that total in the first five-and-a-half months.
Violent crime was up 5.5 percent in April compared to the same time last year, and there has been a 23-percent increase in aggravated battery cases, many of which were shootings.
Even though Florida’s shelter-in-place order has been lifted, it’s the norm for many to still work from home and spend more time there.
That’s why Jo-Lee Manning, executive director of the Justice Coalition, said she’s not surprised by the violent crime numbers.
"With the (COVID-19) situation and people being at home and out of work, the teenagers not being in school, just kind of creates the right environment for crime,” Manning told News4Jax on Wednesday.
The Justice Coalition, a nonprofit organization, helps families impacted by crime by offering moral support and helping them navigate the court system.
Normally reliant on face-to-face interactions to make deeper connections, the group’s staff now work with victims almost exclusively by phone, text message or video chat.
“It’s kind of harder to make that connection with the victim because you haven’t had that in-person contact with them,” Manning said. “So you’re just another person on the end of the phone.”
The Justice Coalition is not the only anti-violence group dealing with this challenge. News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said groups like Cure Violence that spend time in the community have lost a lot of their momentum due to COVID-19.
“As far as I know, the anti-violence groups are pretty much stagnant right now,” Jefferson said. “Because their work primarily involved being outside interacting with people, and with the stay-at-home order that’s been going on and with the social distancing thing, I haven’t heard anything in regard to these types of groups.”
Jefferson said for many of these groups, the new approach is like starting from scratch.
“They’re gonna have to start from square one, continue the work that they’ve been doing,” he said.
Cure Violence mediators told News4Jax they were able to mediate 52 different incidents in the second half of 2019. They believe 37 of those incidents would have led to shootings.
To learn more about the Justice Coalition, or to donate, click here.