One problem with politics is the nonsense it generates.
Take, for example, crime.
Shame on Mayor Lenny Curry and his opponents, and the media, for giving Jacksonville residents the impression that the mayor of a city can control the number of murders in a city.
Also, shame on those claiming Jacksonville is the “murder capital” of anything. This nonsense was foisted on its readers by a local newspaper some years ago and is being revived.
This has resulted in useless marches in the streets and silly politicians claiming Jacksonville “is on fire” and calling for the National Guard to be mobilized.
Curry brought it on himself by portraying himself as a crime fighter.
That made him subject to criticism if the crime rate were to rise.
But the crime rate is subject to all kinds of manipulation. All crime? Violent crime? Just murders? Compared to what?
John Rutherford, now a congressman, was the sheriff from 2003-2015, and a pretty smart one.
He said, “We can’t arrest our way out of a murder problem.”
He conducted an in-depth study on the issue of murder and gun violence after noticing an upward trend in the murder numbers through the mid 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Murders had exceeded 150 for four years, but they were inching upward, and they were troubling.
We had 106 last year, according to the sheriff’s office, down from the previous year.
There have been 24 this year, leading to the current frenzy.
The indicators Rutherford saw included a high non-completion rate for high school students, and a large number of repeat felony offenders not prosecuted or severely sentenced for “lesser” crimes, not to mention a growing culture of “young gun-toting thugs” who turn to gun violence to solve minor actions of “dis-respecting” one another.
Rutherford noted that for murder to be prevented, the murderous intent of an individual must be eradicated. Not only is that goal somewhat unrealistic, but it is also not the “turf” that a law enforcement agency should claim, he said.
For the most part, the police investigate murders, they don’t prevent them.
Jacksonville has a high number of families where parents don’t do their jobs. They don’t raise their children properly and they don’t cooperate with law enforcement. There is a culture that sees the police as the enemy – an attitude that promotes more crime and violence.
Police have tried various tactics. There was Operation Safe Streets. The Violent Crimes Task Force. There was the very expensive Jacksonville Journey. Police have re-used the tactic of concentrating forces on troubled areas, which goes back at least 50 years.
Like most of his predecessors, Curry has supported hiring more police officers. But police simply can’t be there when someone has a violent impulse and chooses to take it out on someone else.
Crime experts also say that demographics is a major factor in crime trends. When the population has a higher proportion of people likely to commit crimes – males aged 18-25 – crimes rates rise. Local police cannot control demographics.
As for trends, which politicians currently are arguing about, they mean little. Last year, there was a trend of fewer murders, leading to some hope of progress. That went south when there was a spate of them in the summer, and the total for the year dashed hope of “success.”
In Florida the trend for the past 20 years has been fewer crimes, but the number of violent crimes has been flat, as this graph shows.
You might sum it up by paraphrasing Shakespeare.
Our future lies not in the stars on police uniforms, but in ourselves.
When we have intact families with parents who teach their children respect for the law and support law enforcement, crime rates will decrease — no matter what silly politicians are doing.