Jacksonville, FL — As Jacksonville’s Task Force on Safety and Crime Reduction seeks more time to come up with their full recommendation on the best path forward for reducing crime and increasing safety in the city, they’re giving an idea of the projects- and $2.5 million funding needs- that they don’t want to wait.
The preliminary status report from the Task Force says it’s important they have a “permanent, long term life”, so that they can work “deliberately and comprehensively” on a strategy. That type of extension would also ensure crime reduction and safety remain a priority and the programming around that has some continuity, to ensure programs don’t get de-funded if crime temporarily drops.
“We must go beyond treating symptoms, and be bold enough to deal with root causes of crime and violence in our city,” the report says.
BEHIND THE SCENES: Jacksonville's Real Time Crime Center
Task Force members have put in hundreds of hours, working across nine subcommittees with a focus on various elements- workforce training, business partnerships, education and youth development, community engagement, mental health and substance abuse, and more. Task Force Chairman Pastor Mark Griffin says they're working on taking a holistic perspective that goes beyond crime stats.
"Tracking some of our most violent crimes, to look at the participants and really begin to understand the dynamics of their past, and history, and exposures. So, hopefully, we will then be able to take our limited public dollars and invest them even more wisely than we have been investing them in the past," Griffin says.
He says the Task Force wants to work with the Kids Hope Alliance, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, and City of Jacksonville to ensure the current dollars are being spent in the best way possible to maximize that return. That would mean looking at where violent crime is occurring and overlaying things like employment data, poverty rates, basic infrastructure like lighting, and similar factors. If there are deficits, they would recommend the dollars go to address those needs.
Some of those voids, though, the Task Force doesn’t want to see wait.
The preliminary report lists $2.5 million in “immediate, emergency funding” requests, which Griffin says they detailed in the hope that Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry would include it in his pending City budget proposal. $500,000 would be for mentoring, $1 million would be for programs to serve youth in the Juvenile Justice system, and $1 million would go toward programming for pre-teens and teens, with the recommendation that at least $100,000 of that be used for an initiative to reduce the stigma around mental illness and $100,000 for a Trauma Response Plan for the highest crime neighborhoods.
“Those are just some immediate needs, but long term, the city has to invest some serious money. If we’re serious about really- once and for all- getting on top of this crime and violence matter, we have to invest heavily,” Griffin says.
The report says, because they are still working on their recommendations, there is no firm price tag yet for the estimated overall cost of accomplishing the coordinated and long term effort they hope to see. It says the Task Force “strongly believes” that truly reducing crime in a lasting way will take a consistent and dedicated funding stream.
“I believe we are going to get it right, to the extent that we hope that we will not just see a drop in crime and violence for the short term. We are hopeful that we will put an apparatus in place that will serve Jacksonville for years to come, and could conceivably be a model that other cities can use to help to reduce what we see as a fairly common problem in a lot of urban centers across our nation,” Griffin says.
WOKV asked Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry whether he intends to incorporate the Task Force’s requests in to his budget proposal, and what he could consider to address the more long-term funding needs. A statement from Curry’s Director of Public Affairs Nikki Kimbleton says the Task Force’s requests are being carefully reviewed.
The nine subcommittees continue to work right now to inventory the services available in their respective areas of focus and craft full recommendations. Some of the early findings include the need to increase awareness about existing resources like family needs and workforce training, expanding both the number and reach of community grassroots groups, cutting back on the number of illegal guns on the street, improving basic neighborhood infrastructure like playgrounds and sidewalks, and more.
Griffin says he has a good degree of confidence the Task Force will be allowed to continue their work. He says there is some consideration also being given to whether they will become a more permanent body, like a Commission.