Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Good Time to Fall into Second Place

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Good Time to Fall into Second Place

Article excerpt

At last, Duval County no longer is the murder capital of Florida.

That dubious distinction now goes to Miami-Dade County, The Times-Union has reported, citing Florida Department of Law Enforcement statistics.

There were 9.03 murders per 100,000 people in Miami-Dade last year, compared to 8.98 per 100,000 people here.

We lost the No. 1 ranking by a nose this year, but we'll take it anyway.

It's a relief, of course, that 11 long and embarrassing years have finally ended - and that Duval no longer has the worst record in the entire state.

But the really good news is that all crimes - not just murder - dropped precipitously here.

Robberies and aggravated batteries fell, as did burglaries, larcenies and car thefts.

And the trend is continuing. Through April 11, violent crime was down here 9.3 percent; property crime, down 7.7 percent.

What happened? Part of the improvement can be attributed to a trend everywhere toward less crime. The state crime numbers were down, as well. But the drop has been much more pronounced here; crime, in fact, was down 12.2 percent last year - nearly twice the statewide average of about 6.7 percent.

Part of the credit goes to the emphasis by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office's on "community policing" - the practice of getting out of their cars more often and establishing relationships with ordinary people.

An increase in crime "tips," nurtured by these new relationships, no doubt led to more arrests. Sheriff John Rutherford has built a large and impressive group of citizen advisory groups that are paying dividends.

Part of the credit also must go to ordinary citizens who, fed up with crime, decided to become part of the solution.

Some credit also should go to what Rutherford calls data-driven policing - the use of statistics to spot crime trends in various areas of the city and to shift resources accordingly.

And, finally, it's impossible to ignore the impact of State Attorney Angela Corey and her staff.

According to a "mid-term evaluation" released by her office in January, there were 645 felony trials in the judicial circuit during her first two years as state attorney.

That compares to 318 in 2007/08 and 265 in 2005/06. …

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