Jacksonville's Crime Spills into Neighboring Counties; Outlying Areas Have Inviting Targets That Attract Criminals from Duval, Law Enforcement Officials Say

By Lewis, Ken | The Florida Times Union, July 14, 2006 | Go to article overview

Jacksonville's Crime Spills into Neighboring Counties; Outlying Areas Have Inviting Targets That Attract Criminals from Duval, Law Enforcement Officials Say


Lewis, Ken, The Florida Times Union


Byline: KEN LEWIS

Violent crime is spilling from the First Coast's most populous city into many outlying counties.

A convenience store clerk on Fleming Island is shot by robbers from Riverside.

An 82-year-old Clay County woman is mugged by a Jacksonville man.

Another elderly woman from Clay County suffers a broken shoulder when a man jerks the purse out of her arms. He is later caught in Arlington.

They are just a few of the examples of the rise in violent crimes in 2005 that occurred in all Northeast Florida counties with the exception of St. Johns and Nassau, according to statistics released this week by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Although much of the increase may be caused by population growth, many law enforcement authorities also noted a spillover effect from Jacksonville.

Some outlying counties have easy targets, such as the Orange Park Mall at the border of Clay County and Jacksonville, where Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler said there has been a jump in carjacking and robbery.

"There is somewhat of a trend that has developed, that a good percentage of our violent crime is being driven by suspects coming down from Jacksonville," Beseler said.

The state reported crime statistics by county for 2005 and showed that the sum of all violent crime increased in the Jacksonville metropolitan area that consists of Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties.

REGIONAL CRIME INCREASES

The region's total reports of murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault increased from 9,791 in 2004 to 10,213 in 2005. As the region's population of about 1.3 million grew by about 36,000 people, there were 422 more reported incidents of murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

Statewide, the crime rate dropped to a 35-year low. This trend was touted by Gov. Jeb Bush, and it has been fairly consistent for at least a decade. The rate of violent crime dropped as well, though the total incidents rose 1.7 percent.

Duval County saw its reported violent crimes increase from 6,810 in 2004 to 6,954 in 2005. This was in a year in which the population grew about by about 21,000 people to about 861,000.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office views the numbers as a success. Undersheriff Frank Mackesy pointed out that the crime rate had dropped and that the increase in population was far greater than the increase in crime.

"When you adjust it for population, it's a reduction," he said. "I can tell you Jacksonville is safer now than it was 15 years ago. It's safer now than it was this time last year. Crime is down."

Though the rate dropped in Duval County, the state showed that total reports of violent crime were up. The increase in Jacksonville tempered the apparent success of Operation Showdown, an initiative by Sheriff John Rutherford that floods troubled neighborhoods with a team of officers and includes attempts to improve community relationships.

The operation has successfully thwarted violent crime in three of four areas where it has taken place, according to the Sheriff's Office. It was modeled after a program used by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said that it pushed crime to other spots.

During the taping of a television program last week, Rutherford acknowledged that the operation may aggravate the problems faced by Clay County. …

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