The Unspoken Cost of Gun Violence

In Duval County, every gun crime costs residents $1,325 a year - the fourth highest amount in the country. That's higher than New York, Chicago, Oakland and Los Angeles. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
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"Paralyzed from the waist down."

That's how Jarrod Showers explains what happened to him back in 2005. He uses a wheelchair to get around now.

"I got into an altercation with three guys," he says. "One guy went to the car and got a gun and shot me in the chest."

When Showers was shot, it was a part of an epidemic of gun violence that continues into 2017. Each and every gun crime tears lives apart - and while it costs victims and their families plenty, it also costs every resident of Jacksonville.

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The out of pocket cost Duval County residents pay for gun violence every year is more than a Macbook, more than a VIP ticket to a Jaguars game and even more than the average cost of a month's rent in the city.

As gun crimes become an increasing problem, research shows if the trigger's not pulled in your part of town, you often don't care.

"Physical therapy," Showers explains. "A little counseling, because, you know, it's traumatizing. You're going to need someone to talk to because people don't realize when you're in the chair, it's a whole different world."

Perseverance got Showers to where he is - a standout player on the Brooks Rehabilitation's wheelchair basketball team. But to get there? Years of surgeries. Lost work wages. Therapy.

"I had to learn how to do everything: put my clothes on, tie my shoes, transfer in and out of bed, open doors," Showers says. "It's like you're learning everything new."

The personal toll on Showers was immeasurable, but the dollar amount is a little more tangible - it's something you can calculate. Dr. Ted Miller of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation says the average gun crime in Florida carries an annual price tag exceeding $700.

"That's crazy," he says.

First Coast News's On Your Side team worked with Miller at the Pacific Institute to generate an actual dollar figure for how much gun crimes cost us all. Using the most recent data available, Miller worked to figure out gun crimes cost every Florida resident $740 a year.

But in Jacksonville? That cost is higher. It's actually almost double. Miller found that gun crimes cost every Duval County resident $1,325 every year.

That puts Jacksonville as the fourth highest city in the country for gun crime costs.

Only residents in Philadelphia, Detroit and Indianapolis pay more than those in Jacksonville.

"I think what this data says is this is a big problem." Miller explains. "It takes a lot of money out of our pocketbook."

Our pocketbooks lose money for direct costs like law enforcement, medical treatment and criminal prosecution. Indirect costs include hits to income, the local workforce and quality of life.

The University of North Florida Criminology Professor David Forde says researches have worked to put a price tag on gun violence for years.

"It's everybody's issue - within the community - whether it's on your street or not," Forde says. "To make it safe, we all have to work together and, in this case, we're all having to pay for it."

He says geography within the city influences a neighborhood's level of concern.

"'Not my street, not my problem,'" he quotes some as saying. "Well, it's still in your city and whether they realize it or not, they don't see it coming out of their own pocketbook, but it is."

Showers, an Army veteran, says sometimes even he finds it hard to cut through the white noise about gun crime in Jacksonville.

"It's definitely white noise because it's happening so much," he says. "It's just like, 'Oh.' I feel myself doing it sometimes; 'oh, somebody got shot again."

He agreed to speak to us because he hopes that pocketbook punch will spark new concern for the issue.

"Definitely do more," he says. "But it doesn't just fall on the police officers or city council or anyone high. It starts with the community. The community has to step up."

It's a lesson well learned from an athlete who knows the cost of gun violence all too well. The second part of our investigation, The Cost of Gun Violence, will run tomorrow on this website and on First Coast News at 11.

In the meantime, if you're a data-nerd or would like a peek behind the curtain as far as methodology goes, check out the below spreadsheet thanks to Miller. 

How should you read it? It's a collection of stats and costs related to gun deaths and gun crimes - including suicides. Looking from the top down, it begins with Florida costs and government costs - but near the bottom of the spreadsheet, look for the TOTAL sections to see just how much violence costs our community.

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Gun Shot Wounds Florida Violence Cost by Jacob Rodriguez on Scribd

If you're interested in checking out this information for a city close to ours in costs and violence, check out the stats from Chicago and Cook County, Illinois