State Attorney on Jacksonville violence: Enforcement itself won’t fix underlying issues

She's your top prosecutor state attorney Melissa Nelson quietly continued into her second term in the 4th judicial circuit.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In the midst of heated and tumultuous elections across the nation, State Attorney Melissa Nelson quietly continued into her second term in the 4th Judicial Circuit.

She has promised criminal justice reform and fairer, smarter prosecutions.

But many in Jacksonville are still worried about violence in their neighborhoods, especially after the 176 homicides reported in 2020 -- the highest in the last 20 years.

Nelson said public safety and dealing with violence in the community is her office’s top priority.

“We are constantly looking to what other successes have been had in other jurisdictions and worked to implement those same things here,” Nelson said in an interview Wednesday on The Morning Show. “We work hand in glove with our law enforcement partners to try to solve those cases and we see those cases from the very first inception of the crime, through to the end.”

She pointed out that Jacksonville’s increase in violent crime was not unique to the River City.

“While we had certainly an increase in homicides, cities like ours across the nation, for reasons unknown to us, experienced the same thing, so focusing on gun crime and gun violence and homicides obviously is a main priority of ours (and) has been for the last four years and will continue to be,” Nelson said.

Toward that effort, Nelson’s office has also prioritized investing in technology, including a bullet tracing database and a Joint Crime Center.

“As I have said many times before, we didn’t get here overnight, and we are not going to fix this overnight. We are in this for the long game,” Nelson said. “These are very significant problems. They are rooted and complicated issues that enforcement itself will not fix.”

She said Sheriff Mike Williams has touted the use of the technology in his department’s investigative efforts and that the city is seeing returns on it investment.

“We are collecting cartridge casings, putting them in a database and watching how a shooting might be connected to another shooting, which is using this piece of technology as a lead generator, which is different than we have ever done before,” Nelson said. “So small successes, but yes we are seeing them.”

To hear more from Nelson on her goals and what’s next for her office, press play on the video at the top of this article.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.