The Rev. James Bodie speaks to 100-plus people at the ICARE meeting Monday night in Arlington. | Dan Scanlan, WJCT News 89.9The Rev. James Bodie speaks to 100-plus people at the ICARE meeting Monday night in Arlington. | Dan Scanlan, WJCT News 89.9
The Rev. James Bodie speaks to 100-plus people at the ICARE meeting Monday night in Arlington. | Dan Scanlan, WJCT News 89.9

After more shootings, ICARE pushes for solutions

Published on February 27, 2024 at 5:19 pm

George Mullins was shot and killed just after 4 a.m. Sunday while driving on Cesery Boulevard, the fourth person slain in Jacksonville since Friday, according to police records.

Just east of there, the pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church, the Rev. James Boddie, said he heard the shots that killed the 23-year-old Mullins.

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Boddie then chaired a meeting of ICARE one day later as the group implores Sheriff T.K. Waters to find better ways to stem gun violence.

Standing in the church hall Monday night, Boddie said violence became “very close to me” as he prepared for Sunday services.

“Yesterday morning, a man was killed less than a mile from here on Cesery at Arlington Expressway,” Boddie said. “He was shot to death in his car. I was here in the rectory, and I could hear the shots being fired. This is deeply unsettling, and tonight we mourn the loss of another person in our city.”

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ICARE — the Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation & Empowerment — is made up of hundreds of members of the city’s faith community, including clergy and staff at 38 Jacksonville churches, synagogues and other congregations in Duval County.

They use what they call their “collective people power” to push the city’s elected officials to find countywide solutions to problems such as crime, low graduation rates and homelessness.

In recent years, ICARE has pressed police to stop arresting people for minor offenses that can leave them with a lifetime criminal record for nonviolent lapses. ICARE says those arrests undermine public trust in law enforcement and do not make the city safer.

The Sheriff’s Office has stated that it does not favor adult civil citations, although it does support them as an alternative to arrest for juveniles.

Dozens of ICARE members filled a hall this week at Christ the King Catholic Church to kick off a new push for Waters to adopt the National Network for Safe Communities’ Group Violence Intervention program, which they say appears to be stopping murders in other major cities. 

The Sheriff’s Office has an 8-year-old program designed to cut down on violent crime, but ICARE said that isn’t doing a good enough job. ICARE members point out that the city has the 23rd highest murder rate out of the 75 largest cities in the U.S., according to a report last year in The Center Square, a 5-year-old online news website that does state and local government and economic reporting. 

“We are facing a serious problem,” Boddie said, displaying a map of 2023’s murders. “A total of 124 people were murdered last year. Over 80% of them were African American. Most were men or boys. Over half of them never saw their 30th birthday. This is devastating.”

Boddie and others also presented information on the Group Violence Intervention’s success in Boston, which saw a 63% drop in youth homicides. Cincinnati had a 41% decrease. And since 2016, the numbers of murders has increased in Jacksonville, most concentrated on the city’s North and Westside, he said.

City Council members Rahman Johnson and Tyrona Clark-Murray attended the meeting, as did the city’s community initiatives director, Charles Griggs, and Duval County School Board member Warren Jones. State Attorney Melissa Nelson sent a video message to the group.

No one from the Sheriff’s Office was at the meeting, although ICARE board member Lloydette Noisette said they will keep pushing to meet with the sheriff. 

“I don’t think we are just hitting our head up against the wall. I think that there is a chance, if the sheriff will sit down and let us talk this over, and I know that he sees every day what’s going on in Jacksonville, so it has to, at some point, we hope and pray that at some point the light will come on and say, ‘OK, let’s sit down and talk this out.’” 

In a statement regarding ICARE’s push for the Group Violence Intervention program, Officer Christian Hancock said the department is recognized by the National Network for Safe Communities as a “leader in violence interruption.”

“In fact, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office hosted the National Network for Safe Communities Conference in November 2023, showcasing our local integrated violence interruption services with community partners,” Hancock said. “This program has been in place in Jacksonville since 2018 (started by then Assistant Chief Waters). … The National Network now looks at us as a leader nationally in Group Violence Intervention implementation and programming.”

The Sheriff’s Office also said non-domestic firearm crimes are down 49.1% year to date. Non-domestic firearm incidents in which victims were actually shot are down 30.5%, .

ICARE will hold its next Nehemiah Action Assembly at 6:45 p.m. April 17 at Abyssinia Missionary Baptist Church at 10325 Interstate Center Drive. The meeting is an annual session where all of its church members will discuss issues and possible solutions with citys officials.

Lead image: The Rev. James Bodie speaks to 100-plus people at the ICARE meeting Monday night in Arlington. | Dan Scanlan, WJCT News 89.9

author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 email Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.

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