MURDER RATE; Maybe, Just Maybe

Article excerpt

As the second half of 2010 approaches, Jacksonville has logged 31 murders this year.

Any murder is one too many. But, if the pace (as of Friday) holds or decreases for the year, our community would have had the fewest number of murders in at least four decades.

Could 2010 be the year that Duval County shakes its 11-year grip on having the highest per capita murder rate in Florida?

It's possible. But it's also far too early to tell.

We've been on such a mid-year pace before.

Historically, however, Duval County's murder machine tends to kick into high gear during the second half of the year.

Plus, how Duval finishes statewide also depends on how other counties fare.

And, like in Duval, murders dropped statewide last year.

THE MAGIC NUMBER?

Here's an interesting Duval statistic: Murders for the second half of the year have averaged 47 over the last decade.

If Duval hit the average from here on out, it would have 78 murders for the year.

That's the number - based on last year's murder rates for counties throughout Florida - that Duval County would have needed in 2009 to fall under the murder rate of the next-closest county, Miami-Dade.

But murder rates call for perspective.

Murder is only one type of crime tracked by the state.

An overall high crime index - which generally puts Duval at or near the top among state leaders - is probably more worrisome.

By sheer numbers alone, someone in any county is far more likely to be robbed, raped, assaulted, burglarized or have a car stolen than be murdered.

A BROAD ISSUE

Yet, murder, perhaps more than any one statistic, is the paint on the broad brush that taints a community.

It stains a place as being dangerous and undesirable.

It poisons perceptions of a community as a place to live and shop.

And it tends to suggest an entire community is a risky place to live.

Of course, perceptions do not necessarily reflect reality.

The reality of Jacksonville is that we have places that should be avoided at certain times of the day like everywhere else. But much of Duval County is safe most of the time.

But our crime problems are oversized and undeniable. They are indicators of serious deficiencies in income, education, health and other quality of life indicators.

And failing to overcome them isn't acceptable.

Duval County recorded 101 murders last year. That's down, fortunately, from the 116 of 2008.

Almost all of those murders - or 99 of them - happened within Jacksonville, which covers almost all of Duval County because of the consolidated city-county government. …