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UNF Criminologist wants new tax for public safety

6:37 PM, May 22, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- You've seen the police tape images and heard the crime reports; UNF Criminologist Michael Hallett said Jacksonville's crime problem is worst than it seems.

"We have the highest homicide rate in Florida," he said.

The UNF professor keeps his finger on Jacksonville's crime pulse and says the city is losing the fight

"Jacksonville is a dangerous place to be, especially for police officers," said Hallett. 

He points to a bar graph from the latest FDLE numbers shows how dangerous the city is for police and residents.

"We have twice the violence committed with firearms than any peer city in Florida," he said.

Cities like Miami-Dade, Tampa and Orlando. Hallett said if JSO has to lay off more officers to help the city balance the budget that would be devastating.

"The conversation is a 15% cut across the board," he said, "that would be 50-100 officers and that is cutting into the bone."

The UNF professor said it is time for the city to raise taxes for public safety.

"The only way to really get out in front of this thing is to have a public safety mileage now to save money," said Hallett.

Tackling the pension problem up front and raising taxes are just the beginning. Mayor Alvin Brown has yet to see Hallett's report for his tax increase, but the Mayor's position on new taxes is clear.

"No tax increases," said the mayor, "I balanced our budget last year without raising taxes or fess and I'll do it again this year."

The mayor says he supports more crime prevention efforts, Hallett also supports crime prevention programs, but says there has to be a dedicated tax to fight crime.

"People are leaving Duval county for surrounding counties with higher taxes and better services," he said.

Hallett said he knows his position is not politically expedient but something has to be done now.

"I'm not making a simplistic argument that throwing money at the problem will solve it," said Hallett," but certainly not funding police officers and after school programs is not going to improve it, we are already dead last."

Councilman Matt Schellenberg has not seen the Hallett 'Safer Jacksonville Plan' but said the sheriff is doing a good job and no new taxes are necessary.

Hallett said it worked in Miami. The program is 'The Children's Trust.' 

It started in 2002 and each taxpayer pays an average of 40 dollars a year in taxes.

According to the children trust, 90 million of taxpayer money will go to help at risk children just this year alone.

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