Crime rates drop after prosecutor focuses on repeat violent offenders

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Gun control activists insist that by reducing the supply of firearms available to criminals, we can dramatically reduce violent crime, though they’ve never been able to adequately explain how exactly that’s supposed to work in a nation with 400-million firearms, 100-million gun owners, and the constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear arms.

A much more practical and constitutionally-sound approach to crime reduction is to reduce the demand for firearms among those likely to use them in the commission of a violent crime, and the best way to do that is to ensure that there are consequences for violent criminals.

It’s a lesson that Florida State Attorney Melissa Nelson appears to have taken to heart. As Fox News reports, the prosecutor overseeing criminal cases in and around Jacksonville has made prosecuting repeat violent offenders her top priority, and the strategy is paying off.

In 2021, Jacksonville’s murders were down 30% and overall shootings down 17% from the year prior, according to [Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office] data for non-domestic shooting incidents,” David Chapman, a spokesperson for the Fourth Circuit State Attorney’s Office, told Fox News Digital. “Given last year’s downturn, our numbers to date aren’t far off the mark and thankfully have not spiked like other cities.”

The Fourth Circuit covers Clay, Nassau and Duval counties and the city of Jacksonville and is led by State Attorney Melissa Nelson, who made waves for finding new ways to prosecute known criminals, such as pursuing firearms charges in connection with guns flaunted in music videos. She has sought stiffer sentences for people convicted of gun crimes.

This year, Nelson’s jurisdiction is seeing another drop in homicides, although shootings remained even with last year’s at the start of the month, statistics show.

“After experiencing a substantial downturn in violent gun crime in 2021, we continue to work together to combat violent crime in hopes that this trend continues,” Nelson told Fox News Digital. “Currently, we remain on par with last year’s numbers. Improving public safety and fighting violent crime remains a top priority for our office and law enforcement partners.”

This isn’t about just charging as many people as possible with as many offenses as prosecutors can get away with. In fact, Nelson’s office has also been working to get individuals wrongfully convicted out of prison. But the prosecutor’s top priorities in terms of obtaining convictions are the repeat offenders that pop up time and again in the criminal justice system.

“When she decided last year that she was going to really be aggressive about gun crimes, she got mocked, and one of her detractors was going on and on about, this never works, putting people away and throwing away the key,” said Betsy Brantner Smith, spokesperson for the National Police Association and a retired police sergeant with nearly three decades on the job. “And now, look, since she’s been doing it, it’s been working.”

Brantner Smith noted that even when a person is arrested for the first time for a violent crime it may not be the first one they’ve actually committed, adding that most firearms offenses are not linked to legal gun owners.

“Generally speaking, these are not legally held firearms,” Brantner Smith added. “When you’re dealing with people who are willing to use a firearm to commit a crime, you’re dealing with really serious offenders.”

More importantly, the “really serious offenders” aren’t generally guys who commit a single crime. As we’ve noted before, just 1% of a city’s population can be responsible for nearly two-thirds of its violent crime, which means there’s a small group of very prolific offenders at the heart of every city’s crime problem. By focusing the limited resources of a prosecutor’s office on that cohort, officials like Nelson can have a much bigger impact on violent crime rates than gun control activists slapping another gun control law on the books could ever hope to achieve.

Trying to reduce the supply of firearms in a state like Florida is an exercise in futility. Trying to put the most violent and prolific offenders behind bars for as long as possible, on the other hand, seems to be paying off.