JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With four people shot, one fatally, within hours in three separate shootings Friday, crime was once again on the forefront of people's minds in Jacksonville.
The day of deadly violence comes as Jacksonville's mayor, sheriff and state attorney say they’re moving forward with a plan to bring a program called Cure Violence to the most dangerous neighborhoods.
The first shooting Friday happened just before noon. According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, two men were shot in an exchange of gunfire near Stanton College Preparatory School in the Durkeeville neighborhood. Police noted that ShotSpotter detected the gunshots.
Durkeeville residents told News4Jax they need a program like Cure Violence now more than ever. Frank Brown, who lives in the area, said the crime tape, K-9s and helicopters that he saw Friday morning were nothing new.
"I’m hoping something will be done about all this crime," he said.
James Stubblefield, who lives nearby, said the violence in the neighborhood has gotten worse.
"It's just sad. It's sad to see the neighborhood get down like this," Stubblefield said. "Used to be able to play around here."
About 2 ½ miles west of the double shooting, according to police, a 16-year-old boy was shot and wounded about 1:40 p.m. Friday outside a home near the Tallyrand neighborhood. Police later said they do not believe there was criminal intent involved with the shooting.
Across the river, according to JSO, a man was killed in a domestic-related shooting about 1 p.m. in a neighborhood on the city's Southside. Police said they have a suspect in custody, but no arrest has been made.
“That’s kind of crazy, going home to your neighborhood where you don’t expect something like that to happen. You know, it’s a quiet neighborhood," said LaMont Huffman, who lives in the Southside neighborhood. “You try to live in different areas to try to (insulate) yourself from that. You think living here wouldn’t be an issue, but that’s something they need to get grips on in Jacksonville.”
Now, the mayor is getting hundreds of thousands of dollars ready to stop the violence. This week, city leaders invested $7,500 this week for an assessment of the problems -- a potential solution from the group called Cure Violence.
Cure Violence, which began in Chicago, uses ex-cons as so-called "violence interrupters," working to identify those who are most likely to be shooters and shooting victims.
The News4Jax I-TEAM visited its team on the streets of Philadelphia to see how the program works. The group held several meetings in Jacksonville over the past few days, winning the support of Sheriff Mike Williams, State Attorney Melissa Nelson and Mayor Lenny Curry.
"We won’t know the exact cost of Cure Violence until they come back with a proposal sometime within the next 30 days," Curry said. "But look I’m committed to moving forward with them."
Curry told the I-TEAM he's pushing for legislation to reallocate more than $750,000 of city money once reserved for Hanna Park to start a Cure Violence program in Jacksonville and deal with the crime crisis.
"I saw your story in Philly, so you know this works," Curry said. "Look, there’s a lot of issues facing our city at any given moment, but we’ve got to stop the shootings. We’ve got to stop the violence. And they are singularly focused on this."
The Cure Violence approach is a hot topic in neighborhoods where the shootings are most common. Residents in those neighborhoods are cautiously optimistic.
"We recognize the gun violence is a disease," said Ben Frazier, with the Northside Coalition. "It's an epidemic and we have to stop the transmission."
"The program will work because that will help the kids not to be out here shooting and killing," Brown said.
Stubblefield said, "If they really operated and we’re doing it right, yeah, it should work."
The Cure Violence team got back to Chicago on Friday. The team has 30 days to submit a proposal to the city that will include which neighborhoods they want to target and exactly how much it will cost to get it in place in Jacksonville.
Also this week, state Sen. Audrey Gibson and state Rep. Tracie Davis, both of whom represent Jacksonville, sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying the city is in a "State of Urgency" emergency, and calling on him "to act immediately by activating the Florida Highway Patrol and the Florida National Guard to assist local law enforcement" in response to the violence.
The sheriff said right now, he is not asking for help, and Curry called the request by the state lawmakers a political ploy.
On Friday, News4Jax asked U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Florida District 5, and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, their views.
"As governor what I always did, I spoke to the mayor -- Lenny Curry (and) before that Alvin Brown --spoke to the sheriff -- John Rutherford and Mike Williams -- and said 'What do you need? What can I help you with?'" said Scott, who just finished two terms as the governor of Florida. "I think the same way now."
Lawson was a longtime state lawmaker in the House and Senate before becoming Jacksonville’s representative in Washington, D.C. He’s opposed to using the National Guard locally.
"You don't want to bring the Army in. You know, it has not reached that level yet, even though I would offer my prayers to those families who have lost a loved one," Lawson said. "But, I don't think you want to do that. It will cause more problems."
He said the solution, in his mind, starts in schools and programs that give children every opportunity to succeed, rather than choose violence and crime. Lawson went to Florida State University and pointed out that the university has one of the top criminal justice programs in the country. He thinks consulting with the university and conducting some research could be helpful.
DeSantis has yet to respond to the joint letter.
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