JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Violent crime is still happening in the River City, despite much of the focus being on public safety with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a conference call to the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement, State Attorney Melissa Nelson acknowledged Jacksonville has had a problem with gun violence for decades. But said, unlike in other big cities, "since COVID-19, our shootings and homicides have escalated.” Nelson noted 44 murders and already over 100 shootings this year in Jacksonville. According to News4Jax records, those numbers are up from this time frame in 2019.
The Justice Coalition helps families impacted by crime by offering moral support and helping them navigate the court system. These days, the Coalition's office on Lane Avenue South only has visitors a handful of times per week. Like most of the country, workers and volunteers are working from home.
Tragically, violent crime is still being reported despite orders to stay at home and not gather in large groups because of COVID-19. Jo-Lee Manning is the executive director.
“As you know, and you’re aware, crime last month was up,” Manning said. “Which is sad.”
News4Jax records show 18 homicides in March alone. Manning also said he knows of at least 3 families whose trials were postponed due to the virus.
"Some of them, they've built their whole life around going to the next court proceeding and they don't even have that in their life right now. There's just so much uncertainty," Manning said. "To not be able to give them the answers of 'when? When are things going to get back to normal'?"
What’s more, Manning said the pandemic has impacted the way loved ones are able to grieve.
“We have families reaching out to us as well. It’s heartbreaking that they don’t get to do the vigil and things to honor their loved ones right now.”
Manning's hope is for crime numbers and virus numbers go down. This way, families in search of justice can begin to heal.
Manning said money is also an issue right now. The Coalition relies on businesses for donations and support, which is difficult with the impacts of COVID-19.
Manning wants to assure the community and survivors that the Coalition will be there for them when things do return to normal.
To learn more about the Justice Coalition, or to donate, click here.