New Philips Highway developments bring change, push out crime

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Philips Highway between Atlantic and University Boulevards is known by some as Jacksonville’s red-light district.

That’s because, for years, prostitution and drug activity have been visible along that strip.

But that appears to be gradually changing thanks to recent revitalization.

There’s new construction of housing, retail space, a new grocery store and infrastructure and that means street prostitution and corner drug deals are gradually becoming less able to blend in.

A construction supervisor who asked not to be identified says the transformation has been very noticeable.

“We started out with prostitution on every corner and drug deals on every corner. Since we’ve been here for the past three months, it has reduced tremendously,” they said.

News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson says there’s a reason.

“Criminals don’t like to be involved too much with organization. They like delipidated areas. Depressed areas. Areas of low social-economic value,” he said.

According to JSO service calls, within the past six months, while construction projects were underway along this strip of Philips Highway, there were 43 calls for service involving prostitution and drug activity.

“They’re being pushed out of this area where they use to thrive all the time,” Jefferson said.

“As the neighborhood comes up, they won’t tolerate the riff-raff. And the riff-raff will have to move to other parts of town or get out of town,” the construction supervisor said.

Although there were 43 calls for service about prostitution and drug activity along Philips Highway during the past six months, there were more than 200 calls involving the same crimes on side streets that either run parallel to the highway or connect with it during the same time frame.

Jefferson says this means that the criminal element has been driven to other areas.

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