In 2004, Mayor John Peyton summoned reporters to City Hall to announce his plan to battle violent crime in Jacksonville.
Peyton grabbed attention that day when he outlined what he called “a historic commitment to public safety.”
That would include, Peyton said, a city budget that would give the Sheriff’s Office “the wherewithal to have the right individuals, provide them with the right training and the right equipment, deploy them properly and ensure they are skillfully managed.”
Peyton wasn’t the first mayor to try to combat the violent crime that frequently earns Jacksonville the label “the murder capital of Florida.”
And he wouldn’t be the last. This week it was Mayor Lenny Curry’s turn.
In the same conference room where Peyton had laid down the law more than a decade ago, Curry stood with State Attorney Melissa Nelson, Sheriff Mike Williams and other law enforcement officials, plus City Council members.
“If you are stupid enough to commit crimes in Jacksonville, we are coming after you,” Curry said sternly.
While Curry’s message and the frustration he expressed are understandable, it’s doubtful that those doing the killing — most often young black males — will be scared straight by the threat.
Rational thought isn’t a normal part of the “gang and group violence” that Williams said is impacting the city.
The threat of going to jail isn’t a deterrent for people who see imprisonment as a normal part of life.
The purpose of the news conference was Curry’s announcement that he’s asking the City Council to quickly approve spending $250,000 on a system that will get ballistic test results more quickly.
When a gun is fired, unique marks are left on the shell casing. Ballistic tests done by the state can take months.
Having the technology in-house can get results back in a matter of hours, which can lead to quicker arrests, Nelson said.
And it’s reasonable to think that getting a murderer off the street more quickly could prevent another killing.
It’s a needed tool, but testing a shell casing means the gun has been fired.
Jacksonville’s mayors have struggled for years to find ways to stop that trigger from ever being pulled or having a gun in the hand of someone who is intent on evil in the first place.
Mayor John Delaney had his “Intensive Care Neighborhoods” program — an effort to improve the living conditions in long neglected areas of town.
Peyton called his similar effort “Seeds of Change.”
Those programs ended, and there are still neighborhoods that are suffering and where violent crime is prevalent.
Peyton also started the Jacksonville Journey, which involved hundreds of people working on programs to keep children from turning to crime and to rehabilitate those people who had.
The recession reduced the funding for Journey, and Curry is trying to restart it.
There have been some successes with jobs and afterschool programs.
Some churches and other organizations are actively involved in the fight against violent crime.
And it has been generally agreed upon that like with a stool, there are three equal legs to combating violent crime: enforcement, prevention and rehabilitation.
Yet the killings haven’t subsided.
The Sheriff’s Office will continue to make arrests, and the State Attorney’s Office will prosecute the criminals.
If the technology Curry promoted at the news conference helps, then the city should have it.
But the next news conference at City Hall focusing on crime should be about a comprehensive strategy to deal with the issues that lead to police having to gather shell casings in an attempt to find a killer.
Wouldn’t it be great if Curry is the last mayor to summon reporters to City Hall to talk about fighting violent crime?
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