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First Coast

A Citizen-Led Crime and Safety Task Force Is Coming Soon In Jacksonville

Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman held a meeting Monday to start assembling a task force to address public safety and crime.

He said reducing crime is one of the council’s objectives, especially after a recent deadly August weekend in which there was a shooting after a Raines High School football game followed by a mass shooting at a Jacksonville Landing video game tournament.

Bowman said the task force will likely have about 40 members that could be subdivided into various committees, and it will continue to meet indefinitely.

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Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News
Audience members tell council members about their concerns and suggestions for the crime and safety task force.

“I view this task force as a group that is going to advise the council, the mayor and the sheriff and the state attorney’s office on what needs to happen and how they can help that happen,” Bowman said. “So I didn’t want to get too defined, wanted to leave it open.”

A handful of council members joined Bowman on Monday to discuss the composition of the task force and who would lead it. They all agreed a non-council member should be the task force’s chair and a council member the vice chair.

Councilwoman Joyce Morgan said, “I believe that that automatically brings the community in at a point that we need the community to be involved in this and to be the lead because the community is asking for this.”

Bowman suggested retired Florida Times-Union Editor Frank Denton should be considered to chair.

“He has volunteered and said very much he’d like to be engaged,” Bowman said. “He knows all of Jacksonville, he knows the different entities, he knows the business community.”

Councilman Bill Gulliford agreed, saying Denton would be an “excellent choice.”

However, other council members said they’d like to have time to reach out to other possible contenders for chair. Council members agreed at-large Councilman Sam Newby would be the vice chair and Councilwoman Lori Boyer, who put together the task force on consolidation, would help get the task force started.

Boyer suggested this makeup of the crime and safety task force: About 20 people could be from from non-profits or working in some way in violence prevention.

She said the representatives should be from big and small organizations, including faith-based ones. She foresees them working on a variety of issues contributing to the city’s crime and violence.

“You could do it by expertise,” she said. “You could have some people involved in mental health, you could have some people involved in children and juvenile justice.”

In addition, about five could be from the government, like a representative from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and someone from the state attorney’s office. She said another five could be from the business community, and five from civic groups. Five others would be from neighborhood organizations and a few members could be from academia.

Co-Pastor E. Denise Williams of The Church 3:20 on Jacksonville’s westside wanted to know more about how the task force members will be selected. She also works for a non-profit focused on life skills training and wants to be on the task force.

“My concern was how the task force would be developed,” she said. “They talked about having different people from different communities, different backgrounds...the biggest thing was talking about people who are in the communities.”

Bowman said council members would like suggestions from the community.

“You got a lot of communications that I don’t out there. I encourage you to invite people, and now is the time really to write your Council members and be a part of forming this thing so we can all say, ‘We’re a part of this,’” Bowman said.

At the same time, shortly following the August shootings, the city council and mayor decided to free up $364,000 to break up into mini-grants up to $10,000 for small groups already working against violence in their communities.

The Stop the Violence Mini Grants application and required forms are available on the Kids Hope Alliance website.

Council members will meet again next week about the new task force.

Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.