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State Attorney: Intervention, prevention probably more important than crime enforcement in Jacksonville

State Attorney Melissa Nelson
State Attorney Melissa Nelson (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As Melissa Nelson begins her second term as state attorney for the 4th Circuit, Jacksonville is coming off a historically troubling year.

There were 176 homicides reported in 2020, the highest number in at least the last 20 years, according to News4Jax records.

MORE: Deadly gun violence up 22% as Jacksonville sets (yet another) homicide record

Of the 141 murders in 2020, 110 were Black victims (78%) versus 30 white victims (21%), according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

This Week In Jacksonville host Kent Justice asked Nelson about what she called a “disappointing” 2020 and how her office plans to address gun violence that has disproportionately impacted Jacksonville’s Black community.

“Sadly, these are not new facts for us,” Nelson said. “What we know is where the crime, the violence is occurring and we’ve really tried to target those areas where one piece of an effort to reduce violence in our community and that’s the enforcement piece. But we recognize that intervention and prevention is probably even more important than that enforcement piece.”

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

Enforcement, Nelson said, has included a targeted approach for the areas of the city that are “suffering the most.” That has led to small successes, she added.

“That’s been our approach, and to identify the small amount of people who are driving the violence and target those offenders and use the tools available to us to address them,” Nelson said.

Nelson, whose district also includes Clay and Nassau counties, said the issues will take time and she plans to stay the course. Two parts of Nelson’s long-term strategic plan coming in 2021, she said, is an initiative related to enhancing support of crime victims and communication with them, as well as a cold case initiative.

Nelson was also asked to explain how the recent recognition from the Department of Justice lines up with the crime issues the city has seen in recent years as well as the unveiling of a new public data dashboard.

Her answers to those questions and more can be seen on This Week in Jacksonville, Sunday at 9 a.m. on Channel 4 and at noon on CW17.

About the Author:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.