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Local leaders start discussion on city's gun violence crisis

City Commissioner Jack Porter hosts virtual town hall to address Tallahassee's gun violence issue
Patrick Sternad
WFSU Public Media
City Commissioner Jack Porter hosts virtual town hall to address Tallahassee's gun violence issue

City Commissioner Jack Porter hosted a virtual town hall to discuss Tallahassee’s gun violence crisis on Thursday evening. Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil was also at the meeting, outlining a report released by the Sheriff’s Office titled, “The Anatomy of a Homicide.” The goal of the report was to determine commonalities in the circumstances surrounding Leon County homicides. The report looked at 141 homicides in Leon County from 2015 to 2020.

“This is not a random situation,” said McNeil about the report’s findings. “We will identify something in the neighborhood of 2,000-3,000 people that we believe are going through these processes and need assistance and help from the community.”

One notable statistic from the report is that 31.5% of Leon County is Black—but 75% of victims and 69% of offenders are too.

Commissioner Porter highlighted another finding about the county’s homicide demographics—83% of homicide offenders believe law enforcement officers are just as bad as people behind bars.

“That is a huge hurdle that we have to cross as a community in knowing how we’re going to move people,” said Porter, “and how we’re really going to break through to get to the bottom of this.”

Attendees, which were mostly Leon County residents, including middle and high school students, were split into breakout groups to discuss their own observations, and come up with ideas to reduce gun violence in Tallahassee.

Suggestions and observations include revisiting firearm ordinances, an effort to buy back guns in the city, and a critique of a recent decision to give government funding for football stadiums instead of using it for workforce development.

“We started out with saying that gun violence is a label for a larger problem,” said Bill Davis, one of the attendees that volunteered to report back for his breakout group. “That the problem is systemic racism and poverty. His group That the people involved in a lot of this gun violence in some of these neighborhoods where it’s most intense, the younger people don’t see any way out.”

The report showed that Tallahassee’s 32304 zip code comprised 35% of the homicides in the sample, despite only 17% of Leon County’s population residing there. The report also detailed that over half of the people living in that zip code are below the poverty line. One group shared the belief that Tallahassee’s college student population has an effect on job opportunities for young people.

“Need to find another way to make money,” said Janyah Glenn on behalf of her breakout group. “A lot of jobs that high schoolers would normally have, college students have taken those jobs because we’re in a college town. That was some of the reasons that we identified.”

So far this year, there’ve been 26 shootings and six deaths in Tallahassee.

Follow @bgrutherford99

Brett Rutherford is a reporter and news researcher at WFSU Pubic Media. From Riverview, Florida, he has earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Florida State University. During his time at Florida State, he was a reporter within the sports department at WVFS, the student-run on-campus radio station. In 2020, he served as Sports Director during his senior year and hosted the weekly talk show Tomahawk Talk.

Email Brett: brutherford2@fsu.edu