During his run for mayor, Lenny Curry was brutal in his attacks on his opponent, Alvin Brown.
In ads and in debates, he accused Brown of being responsible for the city’s high murder rate, which had earned Jacksonville the title of “the murder capital of Florida.”
The Sheriff’s Office wasn’t to blame, Curry charged; the blame fell to Brown.
Curry has been in office for more than two years now.
At the end of Thanksgiving week, the number of homicides in Jacksonville this year had climbed to 122.
With more than a month left in 2017 and more mayhem likely, that surpasses the total of 120 homicides in 2016.
It’s also the third year in a row that the number of homicides has increased.
Curry needs to take a long look in the mirror and ask himself this question:
“Who is to blame now?”
If Brown was responsible then, logic dictates that Curry is responsible now.
Former Sheriff John Rutherford was another critic of Brown’s term in office.
Brown had cut the number of police officers, Rutherford charged, and that’s why violent crime had skyrocketed in the city.
In reality, it was the City Council that approved budgets that reduced the number of police officers during the tight budget years that resulted from the Great Recession.
Curry said the answer was to hire more police officers, and he promised to put more officers on the street.
He has done that, yet it’s another record year for homicides under his watch.
One of the problems of campaigning and governing through polls, which Curry relies on, is that while hot button issues might strike a chord with people, they are not so easily solved.
Jacksonville’s high homicide rate wasn’t Brown’s fault.
And it isn’t Curry’s fault.
It has become a part of the fabric of Jacksonville, and that won’t change until the city as a whole refuses to tolerate it any longer.
There are too many guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, many of whom are young and see no future for themselves.
There are too many gangs.
There is too much poverty.
There aren’t enough jobs in neighborhoods where they are needed.
There are too many broken homes.
Former Sheriff Nat Glover once said something that has always stuck with me:
When a young person is killed on the Northside, mothers on the Southside should weep, and when a young person on the Southside is killed, mothers on the Northside should weep.
That would put us closer to Curry’s claim of “One City, One Jacksonville” and finally erase the unfortunate fact that Jacksonville remains a “tale of two cities.”
We are good about sending business and civic leaders to other major cities in search of ideas to improve Jacksonville.
Nashville would be a good stop.
Like Jacksonville, it also has a consolidated city-county government.
And like Jacksonville, it’s also experiencing an increase in homicides.
But not nearly as high as Jacksonville’s.
In 2016, there were 84 homicides there, and the number is likely to exceed that this year.
But that upswing came after lows of 40 in 2013 and 41 in 2014.
Like in Jacksonville, many of the victims and perpetrators in Nashville are young.
That city’s mayor, Megan Barry, is looking for an answer in a major jobs initiative for young people.
Local businesses contributed $1 million to the project, and the city is allocating $6.5 million over two years.
Almost 8,000 young people have been hired as interns or in jobs through the program.
The goal for next year is 10,000.
Jacksonville needs to get serious about finding real solutions that go beyond sound bites.
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