JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- "It depends on how you look at it," University of North Florida senior Robert Farley explains.
He, along with three other top UNF criminology students, said there's no reason to celebrate the Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime statistics for 2010 that show Duval County's murder rate (per 100,000 people) is just a hair lower than Miami-Dade County's.
"When you control for the population," Farley said. "Miami-Dade's murder rate per 100,000 people is 9.03 while Duval's is 8.99."
While several news outlets reported Duval County's murder rate is now second in the state, "If you ask a statistician," Farley said, "they would say technically 'no, we are not #2; we're tied for #1'."
Further analysis of FDLE stats shows Duval County held the title of Florida's top murder rate for the past 11 years straight, according to the students.
The group was asked to participate in a research project to provide facts and figures to supplement a locally made film titled "The 904," a documentary that takes a closer look at violent crime in Duval County.
Funded by the Community Foundation in Jacksonville, the student group is led by UNF Criminology and Criminal Justice Department Chair Michael Hallett.
The FLDE posted crime stats for the first half of 2011 (January - June, 2011), and Farley said so far Duval County's murder rate is increasing while Miami-Dade's is decreasing.
"We're getting dangerously close to regaining the no. 1 spot."
The group also studies the FDLE stats for all violent crime in Duval County, concluding that, "Duval is by far leading the pack in violent crime committed by firearms every year," Farley shared.
The FDLE defines violent crime as murder, forcible sex offenses, aggravated assault and robbery.
Finally, the research team examined media coverage over the past 11 years by detailing Florida Times-Union news stories about homicides vs. violent crime, blaming the media and the city's response to violent crimes for a lack of solutions to the county's violent crime problem.
You can hear more about the student research team's findings and how the group was chosen by watching Joy's special reports on GMJ this morning (Monday, November 7, 2011) and here on this web page.
The UNF research team plans to speaking about its findings during a campus-wide town hall-type meeting, scheduled for the end of this month.
According to Jacksonville Sheriff Spokeswoman Lauri-Ellen Smith, the UNF gathering will include a JSO representative.
Late last week we requested an interview with Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford for his response to the UNF study. Smith says time is needed to allow the JSO Crime Analysis Unit to review the students' findings.
The following are links to the UNF student research team's findings based on FDLE statistics from 2004 - 2011:
* A graph of Duval County's murder rate compared to comparable Florida counties per 100,000 people. Here's the same information by the numbers.
* Percent of murders related to firearms in Duval County compared to comparable Florida counties and the state as a whole.
* Percent of violent crime related to firearms in Duval County compared to comparable Florida counties and the state as a whole. Here's the same information by the numbers.
* The Florida Times Union news coverage of homicides from 2004 - 2011
* The Florida Times Union news coverage of violent crimes from 2004 - 2011
* Comparison of The Florida Times Union news coverage of homicides vs. violent crimes from 2004 - 2100
First Coast News