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Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams responds to rise in violence after weeks of questioning

Sheriff Mike Williams said there have been eight more murders in 2022 compared to this time last year. He called some of the cases over the past two months tragic.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — According to the State Attorney's Office, the murder rate is up almost 43% in Jacksonville, compared to this time last year. 

Non-domestic shootings are up almost 3% compared to this time last year. 

After weeks of asking the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office about the rise in violence, and for an interview with Sheriff Mike Williams regarding the violence, Williams spoke with First Coast News' Kailey Tracy one-on-one Thursday.

"We have a lot of people out working some of these cases and, again, we've had some tragic cases in the last six weeks that really highlight the issue," Williams said regarding violent crime in Jacksonville. 

“It’s a heavy focus for us every single day and again, it’s about staying focused on the work, making sure we’re constantly evaluating what we do, but engaging the community, leveraging technology. We had a great clearance rate in these cases last year. You don’t want them to occur, but if they do, you want to get them off the street," Williams said. 

According to Williams, as of Thursday's numbers, the number of shootings in 2022 is about the same as this time last year. He said there have been eight more murders this year, however, compared to this time last year. 

First Coast News specifically asked the sheriff about two shootings in a seven-day span near First Coast High School in the beginning of March. Twelve teens were shot total. 

"Specifically, with big events like the shootings we saw at First Coast in seven days, do you feel like you should've said something publicly about this violence," First Coast News asked Williams.

"Well listen, I think we address as much as we can with the public and we share that information," Williams said.

Regarding whether or not the incidents at First Coast were gang related, here's how Williams responded.

"A lot of these cases you have kids with no criminal history, no gang ties that we can see interacting with gun violence with each other, so again, this is an appeal to the entire community: get engaged in the lives of these young people," Williams said. 

"I don't think anybody ever anticipated 20 years ago what would've been a fist fight afterschool now is a gun fight in the streets, and so, we have got to continue to work in that prevention mode of educating young people, talking to them about conflict resolution, getting involved in their lives, so we don't have to deal on our end," Williams said.

"By the time we get involved, somebody has already been shot, there's already a shooting and it needs to happen before that and again, that's a community-wide effort," he said.

Earlier this week, Haraka Carswell, Founder of the nonprofit Silent Women Speaking, and Beverly McClain, Executive Director of Families of Slain Children, both said they feel like the sheriff has been silent when it comes to the violence. 

"It's so unfair that we have to watch the families grieve and no one's intervening and stepping up to say, 'enough is enough,' and sometimes that may have to come from my mayor. That may have to come from my sheriff because we are a village. We are a community," Carswell said.

"If we just stay silent and you don't come forward and just ask what we need, it gives the families somewhat of you really don't care," she said.

First Coast News asked Williams for a response Thursday. 

“I have a long history of reaching out and talking to the community and I’ll continue to do that, so if they want to reach out, I’m not sure who they reached out to, it wasn’t me directly, we’d be glad to sit down and have a conversation with them as we have with many groups in the community all the time. Listen, I think we always have to have that dialogue keep it open and it helps us at the end of the day do our job," Williams responded. 

Williams confirmed he's meeting next week with Representative Angie Nixon and a group of eight moms, including Carswell and McClain, who wrote a letter to Williams and other city leaders this week about strategies to decrease violence. 

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