Like COVID-19, Jacksonville’s Homicides Surge in 2020 and Top Out at Unprecedented 175

Police surround the Jacksonville Landing area during a August 2018 shooting that left 3 dead, including the gunman. Ten others were shot and survived. LINDSEY KILBRIDE / WJCT NEWS

By  Florida Times-Union, Scott Butler – For many, the new year comes with hope from two COVID-19 vaccines, new leadership in the White House and just a fresh start to 2021.

Police surround the Jacksonville Landing area during a August 2018 shooting that left 3 dead, including the gunman. Ten others were shot and survived.It’s also a time to reset in Jacksonville, where the homicide toll returns to a clean slate. The city unofficially endured 175 homicides in perhaps the most disturbing year of bloodshed in decades.

That’s also what the community experienced last year, when the city’s 160 homicides were the most since 153 people were killed in 2007. Since the Times-Union has kept track, Jacksonville has managed to stay below the century mark just twice in the last 20 years — 96 in 2010 and 86 in 2011.

For 2020, the violence grew contagious as everyday citizens grappled with lost wages or jobs due to the pandemic and being cooped up at home for most of the day.

The FBI reported that homicides were up nearly 15 percent nationwide in the first half of 2020 compared to 2019.

“That’s probably the case across the country in many cities simply because it generally follows that when the economy gets bad, things like gun violence tend to tick up,” Ed Clark, an epidemiologist at Florida A&M’s Institute of Public Health and a gun violence expert, told The Tallahassee Democrat. “That’s what tends to happen, maybe because resources are scarce. The country is in turmoil right now. So some of these cities have upticks.”

City officials and law enforcement and community leaders have been grilled over and over again about the concerns, the root causes and what can be done. They care, it’s clear.

Their responses aren’t much different this year. So the Times-Union has gone a different route and broken down some of the numbers for its readers. Most won’t come as a surprise, but here are some of the highlights.

By the numbers

Deadliest and safest ZIP Codes: The 32209 ZIP Code in the Moncrief/Grand Park area maintained its spot with the most homicides, 30, well ahead of three others that tied with 19 — 32208, 32210 and 32218. A few had zero. They were 32207, 32212, 32219, 32222, 32228, 32258 and 32073. The totals do not include the out-of-jurisdiction Beaches communities, which only had only a couple.

Race and gender: African Americans suffered the most deaths with 132, followed by 34 whites, eight Hispanics and one Asian. Male victims totaled 144 and 30 females. (Note: The Sheriff’s Office hasn’t yet indicated the race of the last homicide on New Year’s Eve.)

Arrests, race and gender: Police made murder arrests in at least 42 cases. Of the 50 suspects, there were 35 Black males, six Black females, five white males, two Asian males, one Hispanic male and one white female.

Fatal police shootings: Officers killed eight suspects and a ninth was deemed to have shot himself before police opened fire. Three were Black (four if you count the self-inflicted), three Hispanic and two white.

Justifiable: Nineteen homicides were ruled justifiable or excusable, many of them police shootings. These do not count as murders.

Cause of death: Shootings were responsible for 150 homicides, followed by 10 stabbings, five beatings, one hit by car and nine with no cause provided. Of these, two were murder-suicides and two were attempted but the suspect survived.

Worst and best months: April topped the calendar year with 21 homicides followed by 20 in July. December only saw six homicides and next up was January with 11.

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