The Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront is home this week to the Preventing Crime in the Black Community Conference. Dozens of groups from all over the state and the country are coming together to try to teach each other new ways to prevent crime.
One local organization, Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder (MAD DADS), shared ideas on Wednesday by taking a group of people attending the conference out to Durkeeville, a neighborhood in the Northside well known for crime. About 40 to 50 people, including law enforcement, were in the group.
MAD DADS wanted to physically show people what they do to help curb violence in Jacksonville by knocking on doors and familiarizing themselves with people in communities that are in need of help.
Jacksonville had nearly 100 murders last year, and there have been 34 so far in 2014.
MAD DADS is on a mission to solve murders that remain a mystery. Last year in Jacksonville there were 94 murders. Nearly half of those remain unsolved, so they compiled a list, and they're passing it out to people in Durkeeville, hoping someone will come forward with information.
A perfect example is the case of Errin Brooks. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office found his body in the middle of the street, and his killer is still at large.
“We canvased that neighborhood and tried to get them to break the code of silence,” Donald Foy said. “He laid there all night and was found by students on their way to school the next day, which is sad. A very sad story that I would hear gun shots and not call law enforcement.”
Foy said anonymous tipline Crime Stoppers is a good starting point to break the code of silence and encourage witnesses to report crimes when they happen.
“Just by calling, that's the key,” Foy said. “Take enough effort to call.”
Randolph Lewis grew up in Jacksonville and came to the conference from St. Petersburg. He said it's important to see how groups like MAD DADS do things.
“You have to have strategies on dealing with different things,” Lewis said. “You can't have a cookie cutter approach to dealing with crime or any other thing. It's a very vital conference that is needed to continue the discussion on how to bridge the gap between adults and kids, and various other things, in terms of how to reduce crime or eliminate crime.”
Ashley Goldsmith, who's with the Urban League of Broward County, has been attending conferences like Preventing Crime in the Black Community for several years.
“It teaches you a lot,” Goldsmith said. “You're able to meet other people in the urban leagues around the state of Florida and get other views. Not only do you have your own views on how you take violence, but you get to see how other people view it.”
Goldsmith said in her community violence is everywhere, a scary reality her group faces head-on.
“There's a lot of crime around; we see a lot going on,” Goldsmith said. “We have open forums, talking to each other about crime, crime prevention, directing our anger in a different way, talking to our peers about how to stop the violence, because it's horrible.”
Goldsmith said not only are the conferences encouraging for communities in need of help, but they're a good way for young adults like her to get involved and give back.
For more information on the event, visit www.PreventBlackCrime.com