JACKSONVILLE — The death of a man found Monday evening in Panama Park brought Jacksonville's homicide total this year to 117, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
According to News4Jax records, that number is the highest for the city since 2008. Police use the term homicide broadly to refer to not only murders but also justified shootings, like cases of self-defense or when police shoot a suspect.
Homicides by month in 2016 Numbers are from News4Jax archives and do not include some homicides not reported to media by JSO at the time of the victim's death. With roughly a week and a half to go until the New Year, Jacksonville's homicide total is the highest since 139 homicides recorded in 2008. The number is only three more than what Jacksonville saw last year.
Donald Foy, head of the anti-crime group MAD DADS, said he's concerned.
“The community has got to take some responsibility to remove these individuals,” Foy said. “If we don’t ever say we’re going to break the code of silence to remove them, it’s going to continue to happen.”
Foy’s group goes door to door in neighborhoods where there are unsolved homicides and asks for the public’s help to identify the killers. He said the group's primary goal is breaking the code of silence in neighborhoods where people don’t talk to police.
He added that it’s been a real struggle to get young people involved in any anti-crime initiatives.
“Young people don’t want their friends and peers to see them out and about a murder that happened,” Foy said. “They’re kind of afraid with what they’ve heard about the snitch deal.”
Earlier this year, News4Jax reported that the 32209 ZIP code in Northwest Jacksonville had the most murders. That continued in the second half of 2016 with 22 homicides there so far this year.
News4Jax crime analyst Gil Smith said he was not surprised by the increase in homicides. He said JSO has been struggling with retaining experienced officers with many retiring and many more experienced officers leaving the force for other departments over pension issues.
“Because you have 10, 20, 30 officers leaving every quarter and they’re taking 25, 30 years of experience with them,” Smith said. “So if you’re putting more bodies on the street, you can’t put that experience on the street. That takes time.”
Anyone with information about any of the unsolved homicides in the community is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS. Callers can remain anonymous and could be eligible for a cash reward.