DUVAL COUNTY, Fla. — As President Joe Biden laid out a vision Wednesday to tackle a spike in violence in cities across the country, First Coast News is getting a closer look at what crime looked like in Florida last year.
Biden announced new efforts to provide money to fund police departments and tackle gun violence.
He has also directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to adopt a zero tolerance policy for gun dealers.
“If you willfully sell a gun to someone who’s prohibited from possessing it, if you willfully fail to run a background check, if you willfully falsify a record, if you willfully fail to cooperate with the tracing requests or inspections – my message to you is this: we'll find you. And we will seek your license to sell guns," the president explained. "We'll make sure you can't sell death and mayhem on our streets. It's an outrage. It has to end. And we'll end it. Period.”
Gun violence is a challenge Florida saw in 2020 with 80% of murders committed using firearms, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's latest Annual Uniform Crime Report. 38% of aggravated assaults involved a gun.
While the overall crime rate in Florida dropped, the number of violent crimes rose 2.3%,
The trend in Duval County was similar to the state with the overall crime rate in 2020 down and a 13% increase in murders and 25% increase in aggravated assaults.
Jacksonville remains “the murder capital of Florida” with 14.5 murders per 100,000 people.
“I can't say this is a surprise to me," retired Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Detective Kim Varner said. "We've led the state in homicides and violent crimes per capita for a while now."
Varner works with Cure Violence, the community-based crime reduction program.
He believes cutting down on gun violence starts with creating relationships with those who need them the most. Varner says he recently helped a kid he met on the streets get a job.
“You have to give them some kind of resources back, you can't just take the gun out of their hand and not put anything back in their hand," he explained. “The same leadership skills that he had on the streets, he's applying those at a job in a constructive manner."