JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Action News broke down violent crime statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Numbers reveal violent crimes committed in Duval County are more likely to involve a firearm compared to the rest of Florida. 40% of violent crimes in 2011, the last full year on record, involved a gun while the statewide average is just 25%
Action News took the stats to Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford. "Our gun crime numbers are higher. [But] you have to look at demographics," said Rutherford.
Sheriff Rutherford said Jacksonville has more 18 to 34-year-olds than all but one Florida county and that demographic is more likely to be involved with guns because of one factor -- drugs.
Rutherford said, "We know that drugs are the nexus for violent crime in our area. If you overlay a map of our drug arrest hot spots, our murders occur in the same areas."
Action News discovered Duval County has stood well ahead of the state average for percentage of firearm use in murder, robbery, forcible sex, manslaughter and aggravated assault for years. A few years ago, more than half of Duval County's violent crimes involved a gun while statewide averages have remained below 30%.
The sheriff credits Duvals' percentage drop to tougher sentencing for criminals who use guns.
Rutherford said, "[Sentencing is] being applied much more stringently than it has in the past and that's why I think you're seeing it coming down. But it needs to continue in that trend."