November 27, 2022

Homicides

On the Attack

Bob Snell | 5/1/2006
A man masquerading as an undercover police officer stands accused of stabbing a young nursing student in her Riverside apartment. The gruesome details of Sarah Whitlock's killing made national news, but in Jacksonville, murder stories are all too commonplace: The city has led the state in murder rate for the past six years.

The number of murders dropped slightly in 2005 (91 compared to 104 the previous year), but the city's per capita rate of 13 homicides per 100,000 ranked 18th nationally in 2004, topping Miami, Tampa and every other Florida city.

Worried that not enough was being done to address the issue, State Attorney Harry Shorstein said he might convene a special grand jury to investigate the city's murder rate. Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford, in turn, touted several initiatives that have reduced the overall incidence of violent crime. He understands, however, that cutting the murder rate is especially important. "You don't want to be the next Detroit," says Rutherford.

While law enforcement has its role, Rutherford, Shorstein and others insist a more comprehensive solution is needed -- one that addresses the socioeconomic roots of violence: Recent studies show that black residents are nearly five times more likely to die from a homicide than whites and that murders tend to be concentrated in low-income neighborhoods.

They hope just a blueprint for action will emerge from a six-month study of murder in Jacksonville launched by JCCI, a community think-tank. The $80,000 study, conducted by a panel of volunteers, will hear from experts in criminal justice, mental health and education, as well as from crime victims.

Tags: Politics & Law, Northeast, Government/Politics & Law

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