Jacksonville mayor talks safety, downtown development

Crime in Jacksonville remains top of mind for Mayor Lenny Curry. His plan to add 100 more JSO officers still must be approved by Jacksonville City Council.

“At the end of the day, kids have to stop shooting kids,” Curry said.

It’s a message Curry wants to get across loud and clear.

“It makes me sick to my stomach, that happens one time in our city,” Curry said.

Twelve kids have been shot in Duval County this year, a number Curry said is way too high. He said hiring more officers is the only way to keep Jacksonville neighborhoods safe.

“I promised that public safety would be my top issue. Police officers have been cut radically, prior to me being elected,” Curry said.

It’s a promise Curry said he plans on keeping. Sheriff Mike Williams told Action News Jax earlier this summer, JSO needs about 1,850 officers to be fully staffed. Right now, they only have about 1,683.

“We were dangerously low, when I got into office, we were at 1,600, so it’s critical that we get back to the number that our sheriff tells us we need to be to be a safe city,” Curry said.

Curry unveiled a program called Kids Hope Alliance. It would combine the Jax Journey and the Jacksonville Children’s Commission. It would focus on at-risk kids, but he calls them at-hope kids.

“We need outcomes. We need to know the kids that are in those program are the ones that need it the most,” said Curry.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry started with big items on his to-do-list. He fixed the city’s pension problem, help create more jobs, but Curry still wants to develop Jacksonville’s downtown.

Jacksonville’s downtown has been a concern for city leaders for years. From the Shipyards cleanup to abandoned buildings, ideas have come and gone but not much has changed, but Curry said he’s not deterred.

“Downtown matters. The Old Shipyard development, we’re working with Shad Khan and his companies, they have been rewarded, the opportunity to do that deal,” Curry said.

Recently Curry, along with Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan and other city leaders, made a trip to other cities, which have developed around sports stadiums -- St.Louis, Baltimore and Kansas City -- in hopes of bringing similar ideas to the River City.

“There are some ties in, as it relates to water, but it wasn’t really a trip to look at waterfront developments. It was how you can come up with a development that integrates very seamlessly in what would be called a sports neighborhood,” Jaguars president Mark Lamping said.

Some downtown projects are already in the works.

“We’re knocking down the old city hall, and the old courthouse, so we can begin that in preparation for private investment,” Curry said.

And changes go well beyond the downtown area. Curry said there are plans to knock down the Hart Bridge ramp as well. Right now, the Florida Department of Transportation is doing a study on the pros and cons of doing that. They should have the results in the next few weeks.