A new poll from the University of North Florida says that crime is the number one policy preoccupation for Duval County’s registered voters.
And despite concerted investments in public safety in the city’s last three budgets, crime concerns more voters than in previous polls — and that is especially true for females surveyed.
Crime was the number one issue concerning 40 percent of voters — up from 38 percent in 2016, and 33 percent in 2015. And the crime issue is a central preoccupation of 50 percent of female Duval voters surveyed, as compared to 27 percent of males.
For black and white voters both, crime is the runaway choice for top concern. However, when it comes to Hispanic voters, crime is the primary concern for just 13 percent of those surveyed, running behind transportation, improving Downtown, and improving education.
2015 saw a Mayoral campaign predicated on public safety themes, with Mayor Alvin Brown being pilloried for force reductions in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office by his then-opponent, Lenny Curry, and a key surrogate — former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford.
That tack worked on the campaign trail: Curry is in the Mayor’s Office, Rutherford is now in Congress, and Alvin Brown is, two and a half years after that election, planning his next move.
Since taking office, Curry has pushed through three budgets that have added 260 police positions, with another 80 community service officers.
Despite those force additions, reduction of the homicide rate has proved elusive. Per the Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville already has 101 homicides this year — with almost three months left.
Jacksonville had 120 homicides in 2016, and 114 in 2015 — and absent a sudden abatement in the trend, Jacksonville will see more murders year over year yet again.
In late September, Jacksonville’s Mayor, Sheriff, and the area’s State Attorney converged at City Hall to discuss the public safety focus of Jacksonville’s now-current budget.
This was Curry’s third straight budget to pass without a no vote, and includes 100 new police officers, which — when combined with 80 new officers and 80 new community service officers in Curry’s first two budgets — rectifies what Curry called “dangerously low levels” of police on the street when he and Williams were elected.
“People want this city safe,” Curry asserted, “and they want the right investment made in law enforcement.”
While the personal favorability numbers of both Mayor Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams suggest that both men are insulated from any serious 2019 challenge at this point, it will be worth watching next year’s UNF poll results to see if concern over crime begins to abate — thus indicating that concern about crime is starting to fade in favor of confidence in the city’s strategy to abate it.
512 registered Duval voters were polled by live dial between Oct. 2 and 4,