Deadly gun violence up 22% as Jacksonville sets (yet another) homicide record

176 victims killed in 2020; new ZIP code sees major spike in homicides

JSO employee accused of tipping off wanted suspects

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Despite the ongoing pandemic keeping the community in lockdown for part of the year, Jacksonville continued an unsettling trend of rising homicide rates connected to gun violence in 2020.

The city eclipsed 2019′s record-setting total of homicides by more than a dozen.

According to News4Jax records, 176 men, women, teenagers and children in Jacksonville saw their lives cut short by violence in 2020. That’s up from 162 homicides reported in 2019.

News4Jax has been tracking killings in the city for the last two decades, and the closest the city has come to those numbers was 152 homicides reported in 2007, a year that saw 28 police-involved shootings, which count toward the homicide total.

(Editor’s Note: Our records differ somewhat from those the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office releases because for investigative reasons, JSO includes some homicides for 2020 that did not occur in the calendar year or in the city limits.)

Gun violence trended upward dramatically in 2020 with at least 554 people shot in Jacksonville, up more than 42% from 2019′s total of 389. News4Jax records show 68 people were shot in the city in July alone.

Deadly gun violence was also up.

At least 152 of the city’s homicides involved a gun, up more than 22% from 2019, when the city saw 124 of its homicides involve a firearm. (That number might be higher, but in some cases, the cause of death is not known or has not been released by authorities.)

NOTE: For clarification, all murders are homicides, but not all homicides are murders. The yearly total for homicides will be the larger of the two numbers each year, because it includes other types of killings, like those committed in self-defense or some manslaughter cases.

News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson, a former Jacksonville police officer, said it’s clear the numbers are moving in the wrong direction, but the solution could be simple.

“It all boils down to relationships,” Jefferson said. “When you have relationships with your city leaders, with your Sheriff’s Office, with your police department and you have relationships with your community and they are dedicated toward working, you’ll see a reduction.”

Jefferson says he believes community policing is part of the equation to reduce crime in the year to come.

“The way you build relationships is you have to get out among the people that you serve,” Jefferson said. “You can’t just go to a neighborhood only when you’re called. You have to go in there when nothing is going on.”

Another troubling trend we noticed midway through the year continued all the way through 2020 as the 32218 ZIP code witnessed a major rise in deadly crime. The ZIP code that reported just five homicides in 2019 skyrocketed to 19 homicides in 2020, including eight on Harts Road alone.

ZIP code 32254, on the other hand, trended down in its homicide total from 12 in 2019 to eight in 2020.

The city’s homicides became even more concentrated than they have been in years past with just four of Duval County’s 33 ZIP codes accounting for nearly half (48.9%) of the city’s homicides.

Once again, 32209 led the way, with 29 homicides, followed by:

  • 32208: 20
  • 32218: 19
  • 32210: 18

Of the 86 homicides in those four ZIP codes, almost 92% involved gun violence.

The next closest ZIP code was 32211, encompassing the Arlington area, which saw a rash of violence in 2020. It had 13 homicides in 2020, including the tragic stabbing death of 6-year-old Atara Yisrael, who police say was killed by her mother.

She was one of two young girls the city lost to violence in 2020. Kearria Attison, 5, was killed by a stray slug in a shootout between four men over $180.

Altogether, 31 female victims lost their lives in 2020, including 10 in domestic violence incidents.

Editor’s Note: Since the introduction of Marsy’s Law and the narrow interpretation of it adopted by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, News4Jax has relied on sources to provide some homicide-related information that would typically come from law enforcement, including the location of some crimes. The data we put forth in this article and the map below, including ages of victims and where crimes were reported, was compiled from those sources, law enforcement and our reporting in the field.

If you know the name of a homicide victim who is not named on our map, please email, and we will update our database.

Homicides where the location was unknown or unclear are shown near the center of the map on top of the St. Johns River.

About the Authors:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.

Reports weekdays on The Morning Show