Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation
Target Area: La Villa
BCJI Awardee: City of Jacksonville
Research Partner: Justice and Security Strategies, Inc.
Focus Areas: Assault, Vandalism, Larceny, Burglary, Homicide
BCJI Funding Year: FY2018
The historic La Villa community in Jacksonville, Florida, is a distressed neighborhood and the target location for the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation (BCJI) project. Once referred to as the "Harlem of the South," La Villa was part of a vibrant art, music, and silent movie community that supported multiple hotels, theaters, and restaurants. At the center of the area is Edward Waters College, Florida's oldest historically Black college, which is a source of pride and a pathway out of the cycle of poverty and crime. In the 1960s, the construction of I-95 divided La Villa, splintering the neighborhood. Civil unrest forced many long-time residents to relocate and decentralized community assets. In subsequent decades, generational poverty, neighborhood blight, and drug epidemics have devastated this section of town.
The unemployment rate in La Villa is 11.8 percent, which is almost double that of the rest of Jacksonville (6.8 percent). One out of five adults do not have high school diplomas. Over 42 percent of households in the neighborhood live below the poverty level, and the median household income is 54 percent lower than the average household income in Jacksonville. Lack of comprehensive public and private resource coordination inhibits economic development and neighborhood improvement. BCJI stakeholders recognize that revitalizing the area requires a comprehensive, collaborative, and data-driven community response to identified crime drivers.
BCJI funding enhanced the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office's (JSO) activities in the old La Villa neighborhood. With this grant, the City of Jacksonville (COJ) honed crime reduction strategies and data-driven approaches to strengthen the community's capacity and effectively link people in need to cost-effective, holistic, comprehensive, and wraparound services. The cross-sector team, assisted by the research partner, regularly reviewed data, assessed progress, and adjusted strategies where appropriate to achieve objectives under the following overarching goals:
- Goal 1: Reduce violent crime in the target area.
- Goal 2: Increase mutual trust between residents of the target area and the local government.
- Goal 3: Improve safety factors in the target area.
During the Planning Phase of the project, the site's stakeholder group was divided into subcommittees. Each subcommittee was responsible for specific implementation strategies, which are outlined below:
- Subcommittee 1: Public Safety and Social Justice
- Establish a BCJI Violence Reduction Center within the target area to assist with resource distribution and connections to services.
- Conduct a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) assessment of businesses, residences, and public space to make overall safety suggestions.
- Offer small CPTED grants to property owners to improve lighting, surveillance, and target-hardening of vulnerable areas.
- Distribute Ring cameras.
- Install strategic surveillance cameras.
- Install and enhance lighting.
- Host Seal and Expungement Fairs.
- Enhance problem-solving strategies to suppress violent crime.
- Focus on community policing, business engagement, and relationship building.
- Subcommittee 2: Education and Economic Opportunity
- Relicense justice-involved residents to provide entrepreneurial opportunities.
- Provide scholarships for certifications and degrees through the Florida State College of Jacksonville.
- Sponsor fees and training sessions to obtain commercial driver's license training.
- Subcommittee 3: Neighborhood Investment (Housing and Community Development)
- Assist with preserving $2.03 million of estate-owned property.
- Implement a dilapidated historic home improvement program.
- Implement a facade improvement program to reduce blight.
- Assist food truck owners with setting up brick and mortar storefronts.
- Support the Durkeeville Historical Society and Museum.
- Host neighborhood beautification programs.
- Subcommittee 4: Resident Integration and Community Outreach
- Host monthly Community Impact Days.
- Conduct community surveys.
- Hold a Know Your Rights campaign to inform residents of their rights.
- Hold a Mobile Summer Camp for youth in the target area.
- Support non-profit grant identification, writing, and implementation.
- Subcommittee 5: Community Health
- Increase resident use of the community garden.
- Partner with grocers to provide a regular supply of fresh produce to residents.
- Increase immunizations of residents, particularly children, in the target area.
- Increase trauma and mental services for residents, particularly those impacted as a victim, who have been exposed to community violence due to eviction or sudden unemployment.
- Increase health education and community health-related research to improve health outcomes for residents in the target area.
- Subcommittee 6: Neighborhood Maintenance - Quality of Life
- Remediate and remove blight.
- Support the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville.
- Hold neighborhood clean-up events.
- Hold street and parks restoration projects.
Other Key Partners
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Northwest Jax Community Development Corporation, New Town Success Zone, faith-based organizations, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Justice and Security Strategies, Inc.
This project is supported by Cooperative Agreement No. 2018-BJ-BX-K035 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. References to specific agencies, companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement by the author(s) or the U.S. Department of Justice. Rather, the references are illustrations to supplement discussion of the issues.