Jacksonville sheriff candidates address gun violence following 5 shootings over weekend

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – From the Mayport area to Moncrief to the Southside, Jacksonville saw five shootings in 10 hours over the weekend that left two dead and five injured.

Although Jacksonville homicides declined last year for the first time in a decade, they are starting to increase again this year. New4JAX data shows Jacksonville has had 87 homicides so far in 2022.

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The candidates running for sheriff said they are tired of all the gun violence.

“Unfortunately, this is becoming the norm,” said Democratic candidate Lakesha Burton. “I believe that the sheriff needs to be communicating with the community about what’s going on and what they’re doing to address this violence in our community, but also really soliciting the community and informing and educating the community about what they can do to help.”

Burton retired as an assistant chief at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

Democratic candidate Tony Cummings is a veteran of the U.S. Army and JSO and he said that he would work on rebuilding the public’s trust to reduce gun violence.

“We need to push those 1,800 officers out there in those communities with a sustained presence,” Cummings said.

He also said he wants more outreach to the community.

Former Jacksonville officers Wayne Clark and Ken Jefferson said they would use data to cut down on violent crime.

Jefferson, who is running as a Democrat, also used to be News4JAX’s crime and safety expert.

“I will work on the streets alongside my officers. We will saturate the high crime areas and what I’ll depend on is intelligence-driven data to take us to where we need to go,” Jefferson said.

Clark, a Democrat who retired from JSO as a division chief, said, when he was in charge of Operation Safe Streets in the ’00s, he helped bring homicides to a 25-year low. He said he would put the same policies he used back then back in place now. Clark also used to be chief of police for the Jacksonville Aviation Authority and Duval County Public Schools.

“Using data, real-time street intelligence, using high visibility patrols, to make sure we had the officers visible in the community. We also used a program that we call park and walk, where officers were required to park their cars to get out and engage in public,” Clark said.

Republican T.K. Waters is a veteran law enforcement officer, who recently retired as JSO’s chief of investigations. He said the shootings this weekend show the need to continue to put officers on street and build partnerships with the communities.

“Another thing we have to focus on is continuing to focus on our guns and our gangs. Guys that are out there that are committing these crimes, that we know who they are, we know where they are and we’re going to continue to focus our energy on those guys,” Waters said.

We also asked Waters about his plan to reduce violent crime, but have not heard back from him.

The special election for sheriff is set for Aug. 23.

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I-TEAM and general assignment reporter