New poll shows large community support for JSO

UNF report also shows racial differences in how JSO is perceived

There's broad support for the work done by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office but stark differences along racial lines in the way the law enforcement agency is perceived by the community it serves.

That's one of the big takeaways of a new poll done on behalf of JSO by the Public Opinion Research Laboratory at the University of North Florida.

PORL faculty director Dr. Michael Binder says that poll revealed overwhelming support for JSO throughout the First Coast, even in areas with the highest crime rates.

"In a lot of ways, this is analogous to the 'I don't like Congress, but I like my Congressman' phenomena," Binder added. "Residents feel safe where they live and work but are less optimistic about Jacksonville in general."

The poll shows 70% of the Jacksonville residents surveyed find the city, in general, a safe place to live. 88% agreed that they feel safe in their neighborhood and another 78% approved of the way JSO goes about its business.

Patrol Zone 2 - which covers Beach Boulevard north to the St. Johns River - had the highest overall approval level for JSO at 83%, while Patrol Zone 5 - which covers a large part of the Westside north of Interstate 10 - had the lowest at 73%.

In terms of neighborhood safety, Patrol Zone 3 - which covers everything south of Beach Boulevard and east of the river to the St. Johns County line - had the highest score at 93%. Patrol Zone 1 (20%) - which is Downtown Jacksonville - and Zone 5 (21%) had the most residents who don't feel safe in their neighborhoods.

35% of Patrol Zone 4 residents - which covers I-10 south to the Clay County line and west of the river - don't think Jacksonville, in general, is a safe place to live, just above respondents in Zones 1 (33%) and 5 (32%).

One area where the difference was large between racial groups came when each was asked about specific encounters with JSO. 79% of those polled overall agreed that JSO personnel were courteous and competent, but the number of whites who strongly agreed (61%) was well ahead of the number of blacks who strongly agreed (35%).

"If improving community relations is a goal of JSO's leadership, this might be an area to focus on for the future," Binder noted.

Another area which showed racial differences came in regards to officer-involved shootings. 71% of whites think JSO handles those situations well, while only 44% of blacks felt the same way.

Patrol Zone 6 - which covers most of the area north of Downtown to the Nassau County line - has the highest level of perceived courtesy and competence (84%), while Zone 5 had the lowest (19%).

The poll also noted a strong desire across all zones for more visible police presence and 93% support overall for JSO implementing some kind of body camera program for its officers.

"There is almost no variation across patrol zones," Binder stated. "The stunning levels of support for the implementation of body cameras across all demographic groups, and I suspect likely for differing reasons, suggests that JSO should find a way to bring this initiative to life."

Click here to see the full report.

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