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LCSO ‘Anatomy of a Homicide' project illustrates crime trends

Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 10:16 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Leon County Sheriff’s Office has released a new report called “Anatomy of a Homicide.”

The 94 page document looks at homicides between 2015 and 2020, studying the demographics and causes, and searching for solutions.

The 15 to 24 year old age group accounts for the largest proportions: 42% of victims and 35% of offenders.

“Most of these kids that we are seeing involved, these young people, live in the same neighborhoods. They know each other. And it speaks to the fact that there needs to be interventions at an earlier age, with respect to those relationships,” said Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil.

Sheriff McNeil says the data shows there needs to be more of a focus on the issue of violence from other groups outside of law enforcement.

“A plan, quite honestly that seeks to deal with defining those problems that relates to kids at an earlier age. I think the fact that the third grade reading scores, while that did not come up specifically in the report, I think it shouts out at us that we have to be having these interventions at a much earlier age,” McNeil said.

While the 32304 zip code only makes up 17% of Leon County’s population, it accounts for 35% of all homicides in the last five years.

The Griffin Heights and Frenchtown neighborhoods had the highest density.

Both of those neighborhoods have created Neighborhood First Plans, and both include mentions of crime and working with law enforcement.

McNeil said there’s internal work to be done on that front.

“I think we have to pay attention to the fact that many of the kids, 57% of the kids who were interviewed, said they did not trust law enforcement, and in fact, they believe the police are just as bad as they are,” he said.

He also says law enforcement is adding resources to the area.

“Not so much from an enforcement perspective, but a relationship building perspective,” McNeil said.

Allie Taylor-Grant was instrumental in the creation of the Neighborhood First Plan for Griffin Heights. She’s lived there for 50 years.

“I am just really, really concerned,” Taylor-Grant said. “I appreciate all that’s being done by the City of Tallahassee, by the police department, but so much more needs to be done. Not only by these various departments, but by community residents themselves.”

The report’s executive summary lists nine main takeaways.

  1. Homicides predominantly occur in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, and most victims and offenders are in those areas.
  2. The majority of homicides are committed with firearms, many of which are not legally owned.
  3. Homicides are usually committed during the commission of another crime, such as robbery, a drug deal, or theft.
  4. Victims and offenders are overwhelmingly young, black males.
  5. The majority of offenders have previous criminal histories, often violent ones.
  6. The majority of victims and offenders are at least acquaintances.
  7. Offenders typically have an unfavorable view of the justice system and lack trust in law enforcement.
  8. The majority of homicide offenders have been suspended or expelled from school.
  9. The majority of offenders have been arrested for the first time before turning 18.

Sheriff McNeil says the data in the report could have been more robust, and emphasized the need for more information sharing with law enforcement agencies.

He says social service organizations need to stand alongside law enforcement.

“That’s why the mental health initiative we just kicked off is so important, and also the homeless initiative that we are in the throes of starting up. I’m so happy that the County Commission saw it appropriate for us to have two additional deputies that will specifically be engaged in homeless issues,” McNeil said.

McNeil says schools are central, and many issues overlap. He pointed to often forgotten connections, such as children struggling with homelessness.

The report also includes recommendations, such as identifying and engaging key stakeholders, designating a working group, and developing specific goals and strategies with a timeline.

It suggests identifying and engaging individuals at risk, providing targeted services to those individuals, and focuses on behaviors associated with violence and the areas with the greatest amount of violence.

McNeil says he wants to create a Men and Boys Council for citizens to evaluate progress; he says he intends to take the idea before the City and County Commissions.

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