JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - People in Jacksonville Beach spoke out at Jacksonville Beach's City Council meeting Monday night, one week after the Memorial Day brawl in Jacksonville Beach, calling for change.
"Every weekend is a time bomb," said Robert Dotson "The slightest little bobble and a fight breaks out. Too many fights and a war breaks out. This Memorial Day weekend it got out of hand because of the special events, the number of people, lack of enough law enforcement personnel and too many hooligans."
Members of the Jacksonville Beach community presented the City Council with ideas to better the beach after last week's fights. Dozens of people made suggestions like putting more police officers on the streets, increasing taxes to cover the cost of those officers, raising the cost to park at the beach and some suggested a volunteer-based beach patrol.
Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Pat Dooley wants the council to consider closing down First Street to traffic and street parking in the downtown area on busy days.
Taxi driver Mark Patal says that may be a good idea for foot traffic but it would only hurt the businesses.
"I think it would effect our business adversely because we gotta pick up the people right outside of the bar. Some of the drunks will walk to their car if they're not picked up," said Patal.
Chief Pat Dooley's idea of closing down First Street would be between Beach Boulevard and 4th Avenue on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
Jacksonville Beach Police say they will continue to increase patrol, especially for upcoming holidays like the Fourth of July.
"Definitely, I want to make it hospitable to tourism and safety for families and children and keep a nice healthy environment for everyone to enjoy," said Kevin Slowey, who cuts hair in Jacksonville Beach."
"We had tens of thousands of people here the Memorial Day weekend and we had one unfortunate incident," Jacksonville Beach City Manager George Forbes said. "And again, we have plans to further beef up the Police Department and our presence with us with help from the (Jacksonville) Sheriff's Office on weekends for the foreseeable future to make sure that any element that wants to come here and cause trouble maybe decides not to come here."
"We're spending millions and hundreds of millions of dollars making the streets look prettier," said John McGowan. "We just put up a new sign and they're lovely improvements, but we could use that money for officers and there's no excuse not to."
This is an issue very close to Ron Davis' heart. Last year, his 17-year-old son, Jordan, was shot and killed at a gas station parking lot on Southside Boulevard and Baymeadows Road. Davis said going to the beach was something Jordan loved to do, and the thought of violence there hurts him.
"I hear some people say, take back the beach. We're not taking back the beach, it belongs to all of us," Davis said. "Nobody is taking back the beach. What we're saying today is respect the beach. Respect Jacksonville Beach and its residents. If you want to fight, take it elsewhere."
"I'm part of the problem too because after eight years of living here, of all the things that have bothered me, I haven't been here once to say something about it, but I'm here to say it now, so I want you guys to take the opportunity to get in sync with what we're saying and get it down to the police department, and if they need more money, I think we're willing to listen to it," said Ralph.
Jacksonville Beach residents say it doesn't matter who was fighting or what it was about. What matters is that it doesn't happen again.
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