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Jacksonville City Councilman On New Crime And Safety Task Force: It Won’t Work

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis was among a group who gathered Tuesday afternoon at the scene of a drive-by mass shooting over the weekend. The message was: The status quo isn’t working.

Six people were shot outside a laundromat blocks from Sunday’s Jaguars game at TIAA Bank Field. No suspect has been arrested.

Dennis criticized Mayor Lenny Curry’s budget increasing Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office funding by $30 million, calling for a change in leadership.

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Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News
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WJCT News
A storefront next to the laundromat in which six people were shot outside of posts this sign.

“I’m hoping with the call of action that we focus in on prevention and intervention and not just policing because policing is not working,” Dennis said at the shooting scene Tuesday.

The city budget had unanimous Council approval, including Dennis’s vote.

Community activist Denise Hunt weighed in asking city leaders to re-prioritize funding.

“A lot of it is about economic development, social programs and things that address the median income in this area that has correlated to the increased crime in the mass shootings that you saw,” she said.

Curry and City Council budgeted $350,000 in August to give mini grants to small, grassroots organizations already working in the area of crime prevention. Many of the organizations had argued they previously weren’t eligible for city money.

And now Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman is assembling a citizen-led task force to address public safety and crime.

Councilman Jim Love invited those concerned with the city’s crime issues to look into joining the task force, which will probably have more than 40 members, “to help with the economic situation, to come up with new and better ideas because we’re doing some good things, but it’s not good enough,” Love said. “We need to do more.”

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Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News
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WJCT News
Several City Council members meet Tuesday to talk about qualifications for the chair of a new crime and safety task force.

But Dennis shot down the task force, saying he supports his colleagues but the city has “tasked-forced this thing to death. “

“It’s not going to work,” Dennis said.

Just an hour after Dennis’ media event, a City Council subcommittee charged with setting up the crime and safety task force met to talk about what qualifications its chair should have. Eight Council members attended to give input.

Jacksonville Council member Bill Gulliford said in regards to those negative about the task force, “I’m sorry there’s so many cynics and so many negative people out there now, but we’re going to try.”

Members agreed on several qualifications the ideal crime and safety task force chairperson would have:

  • Duval County resident
  • Visibility in the community in regards to leading a group that works to solved community problems
  • Has demonstrated the ability to raise money
  • Have at least 30 hours a week to dedicate to the task force
  • Volunteered to serve on a city board, commission, or previously elected into office
  • Recognized leadership skills in the community
  • Experience working with diverse groups

Council members floated a couple possible candidates for chair including former School Board Chair Betty Burney and Pastor Mark Griffin of Wayman Academy of the Arts. Applications for the chair position are due Friday. 
The subcommittee plans to meet and have a recommendation Monday.

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