Florida Republican prosecutor gets results with crackdown on repeat offenders as blue state crime soars

A Republican prosecutor in Florida has managed to achieve something that high-powered Democratic district attorneys in big cities around the country either can’t or won’t: actually reducing violent crime throughout her community.

The turnaround is happening in Florida’s Fourth Circuit, covering the counties of Nassau, Clay, and Duval in northeastern Florida, which includes Jacksonville and surrounding communities.

The district is headed by State Attorney Melissa Nelson, who’s made a name for herself by pursuing creative policies for finding and prosecuting known criminal actors.

One of her methods is to bring firearm charges against repeat offenders in connection with weapons that show up in music videos, and she’s also pursued harsher penalties against those convicted of gun crimes.

(Video: WJXT)

“In 2021, Jacksonville’s murders were down 30% and overall shootings down 17% from the year prior,” David Chapman, speaking for the Fourth Circuit State Attorney’s Office, told Fox News Digital, citing records of non-domestic shooting incidents from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

“Given last year’s downturn, our numbers to date aren’t far off the mark and thankfully have not spiked like other cities,” he added.

So far in 2022, the district has experienced another reduction in homicides, though shootings remain consistent with last year’s statistics. In an interview with Fox News Digital, Nelson explained her take on the situation.

“After experiencing a substantial downturn in violent gun crime in 2021,” she said, “we continue to work together to combat violent crime in hopes that this trend continues. 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 is a big contrast with Democrat-run cities around the country. For instance, Los Angeles has an ongoing problem with violent crimes. The progressive DA George Gascon has made it clear that he doesn’t want his deputy prosecutors pursuing any firearms charges without his say, and the area’s crime stats seem to reflect this policy. In January, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva reported a 94% increase in the number of homicides in the greater Los Angeles area during the period 2019-2021.

Meanwhile, New York City has seen a spate of recent violence, from last week’s mass shooting to the horrific subway shoving death of Michelle Alyssa Go in January, among many others. The city has reported a 44% increase in the violent crime rate, with repeat offenders driving much of that surge.

Prosecutors and district attorneys in these cities could take a lesson from Nelson’s approach in Jacksonville and surrounding communities. Among her innovations, Nelson has sought to streamline the process of obtaining warrants and has been a leading advocate for a Crime Gun Intelligence Center (CGIC), an interagency collaboration designed to disrupt criminal activity.

And she’s focused on much more than merely increased prosecutions. Her office has also worked to investigate and overturn wrongful convictions, thereby correcting past injustices. Betsy Brantner Smith, a retired police sergeant and spokeswoman for the National Police Association, told Fox News Digital that Nelson made good on her promises to combat crime, despite the objections of naysayers.

“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,” Smith explained.

“And now, look, since she’s been doing it, it’s been working.”


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Todd Jaquith


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