During my first campaign for mayor, I had an impactful conversation with an 8-year-old boy on his front porch that I’ll never forget.
He was around the same age as my son at the time, so naturally we started talking about his love for baseball and other sports. A few minutes into our conversation he revealed something that truly broke my heart; the day before he saw his friend get shot in the street. That is something no child should ever have to experience.
Sheriff Mike Williams, State Attorney Melissa Nelson and I stand united in our goal to support efforts that make every neighborhood in our community safe and secure environments where our citizens can thrive.
Together, we work hand-in-hand on resources, tactics and technologies to achieve that vision. And we are not stopping until we end violent crime in our city.
Earlier this month, we collaborated on a memo that details efforts and strategies underway to help curb violent crime in Jacksonville. It also outlines several proposed solutions informed by research, innovations and best practices that could be effective here in Jacksonville.
The efforts put forward in the 2019 Comprehensive Gang Reduction Strategy utilize a multi-pronged approach with initiatives that target prevention, intervention and corrections activities.
In the years before I took office, Jacksonville saw severe cuts to law enforcement and crime prevention efforts that resulted in a 30 percent increase in murder rates. Since then, with unanimous support from City Council, our budgets have restored and exceeded those cuts.
To bolster law enforcement, we’ve increased the number of police positions by 180 officers (surpassing the 147 cut in previous years), reinstated the Community Service Officer program that has placed 80 CSOs on the street, and worked with the Sheriff and State Attorney on innovative tools and technologies like ShotSpotter, NIBIN and the real-time crime center required to better pursue criminals and gangs.
While enforcement plays an important part in eliminating violent crime in our community, it only treats the symptoms. It takes more than officers on the streets. To truly solve this problem, we need to address the causes that lead to crime.
That’s why those same four budgets allocated more than $120 million toward programs that work with young people in our most challenged neighborhoods. It’s why we created the Kids Hope Alliance (KHA), merging the efforts of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and Jacksonville Journey to reform how we serve children in Jacksonville.
In the months and years ahead, I will continue to work with Sheriff Williams and State Attorney Nelson to ensure they have the tools and resources they need to fight crime; invest in crime prevention and intervention efforts through the KHA; explore innovative programs and technologies like Cure Violence; and, support opportunities for dialogue about efforts, practices and policies to reduce violence in our community.
My team and I remain committed to every citizen and neighborhood in Jacksonville and will work collaboratively with law enforcement and other community partners to make our city safer and more secure.