MURDER RATE; Good for Council

Article excerpt

The City Council holds far more potential than it has shown so far in helping the community make progress on its chronically high murder rate.

A proposal from City Council member Kevin Hyde, however, looks like a serious contender for engaging the council in a more meaningful way.

And the discussion at Monday's Public Health and Safety Committee meeting demonstrated the sense of urgency that is needed.

Hyde is chairman of the committee, which stems from a Special Committee for a Safer Jacksonville that former council President Michael Corrigan created after this page's urging nearly a year ago.

Prior to that point, the council had done disappointingly little to take aim at the murder rate, other than to toss money at it.

COUNCIL HAS CLOUT

It could do much more. In many respects, the council has the authority, scope, resources and staying power to be a major force for solutions.

Ideally, it should offer a standing forum to pinpoint issues, gain public input and develop solutions.

Hyde's approach would aim to do all three.

He said he plans to fashion related legislation for the full council to consider after the hearings and homework are done.

"The 'murder rate' problem has a number of facets, some of which the City Council can address. Some are beyond our reach," Hyde wrote to the other members of the council Public Health and Safety Committee. "However, we must begin to take action."

That's the most appealing part of Hyde's approach.

It focuses on specific steps the city can take, seeks direct public input with public hearings and sets deadlines and goals for action.

It addresses two essential areas - at-risk youths and adults - that the county must deal with if it is to tame a murder rate that has already led the state for the last eight years in a row, and is rising this year.

And it begins to embrace the tools the council can use to step up on this issue.

MORE COORDINATION

What has been lacking in many areas is coordination to pull together local government, business, nonprofits and religious institutions. …