JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - You may have seen a slideshow pop across your social media feed of a map compiled by America's Urban Centers looking at the murder rates of 61 cities. On it, Jacksonville is No. 22, which supposedly makes it the murder capital of Florida. Is this a new statistic? Is this true?
The slideshow is based on the Major Cities Chiefs Association Violent Crimes Survey. The first thing to point out is the survey; look at the homicide numbers, not the number of murders.
So, what’s the difference? A homicide is defined as a death by another person, whether it is on purpose or not.
Murder, on the other hand, is when one person kills another person and it's premeditated. The number of murders is included in the survey numbers.
To Verify, we contacted Darrel Stephens, the executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. He also sent us the reports from the year before and one that included all of 2016 and 2015 data. Our crime expert Mark Baughman also weighed in.
Here's what we found out:
If you look at the data, it compares homicides for the first six months of 2017 to the first six months of 2016.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office reported 64 homicides in Jacksonville so far in 2017 compared to 57 the year before. Orlando Police reported 14 compared to 67 in 2016. Tampa Police say there were 19 homicides in 2017 compared to the 12 reported in 2016.
One thing that you will notice is that the numbers for Miami police are missing. For some reason, the city did not submit the numbers in time when the survey came out. We did reach out to the department for their numbers, but as of this story, we have not received them.
Also, something to point out, Orlando's 2016 numbers include the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting that killed 49 people on June 12, 2016. So Orlando's numbers are already skewed.
The Major Cities Chiefs Association represents the largest cities of the United States and Canada: Sixty-nine in the U.S. and 10 in Canada.
Darrel Stephens spoke about how they get their data, saying: "We ask our members to provide this data every quarter. It's something they wanted us to do. Not all of them submit the data, some of them have more difficulty getting the data together because of computer systems and some of them are in the process of changing computer systems so that's a bit of an issue.”
"Homicides in the large urban cities around the country there are a lot of factors that contribute to it… Most of the urban cities have the highest numbers of people that live in high poverty areas. And the homicide and violent crime rates are generally higher than the places that don't have them," Stephens said.
Let's look at the homicide rates in 2016 compared to 2015:
The Major Cities Chiefs Association says that in 2016 JSO reported 120 homicides, and reported 113 the year before. Miami Police reported 60 homicides in 2016 and 79 in 2015. Orlando Police reported 85 in 2016 compared to 32 the year before. The Tampa Police Department reported 29 homicides in 2016 compared to 34 the year before.
“If you were to vet out those numbers they have in Miami, Tampa, Orlando in comparison with the number of homicides here with the population, it's a little bit above but not dramatically like in some other major cities across the United States," Baughman said.
If you look at the Google chart above, it compares the populations of Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, and Orlando according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Jacksonville has the highest population of 880,000. Orlando is the smallest with 277,000.
So how do the number of homicides in 2016 and 2015 look if you take population into account? Basically, the population of Jacksonville is comparable to Miami and Tampa combined.
Now, if we look at the numbers combined in 2016, Jacksonville still has more murders than the two cities combined.
In 2015, though the rates are the same.
Baughman says the numbers are consistent.
“You know there's not a spike but there are a consistent number of 110, 120 homicides year in and year out, it may vary 4 or 5," he said.
Does the city of Jacksonville have more homicides than any other city in Florida? By the raw numbers, yes. But, factoring in population, the so-called per capita rate, the numbers are much closer.
And that's verified.
As a side note, we also asked Baughman why the numbers in Jacksonville might seem high. "I honestly think most of the crime is derived from the drug trade," he said. "We have a lot of violent felonies that are committed in this town. Some of those murders are resultant of that activity. If you were to take a correlation of what type of drug activity and what type of gang activity is going on in your community, with the number of homicides there's probably a good correlation or nexus between the two.”
What programs or initiatives are helping our crime numbers? Baughman spoke about the Jacksonville Journey. This program helps fun other non-profits that work to prevent crime or make neighborhoods safer. One grant went to help former inmates enter the workforce.
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