JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sheriff Mike Williams and dozens of police officers took to the streets of Panama Park on Thursday, walking door-to-door to talk to neighbors about their concerns over crime and to encourage them to help out.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has done the walk dozens of times all over the city, and each time the department focuses on a place that needs help.
JSO's crime-mapping tool shows that in the last three months, within a mile radius of where Thursday's walk took place, there have been two homicides and five aggravated assaults, among dozens of other crimes that concern citizens.
Cab driver Melvin Wright, 62, was found shot to death in his car. An 18-year-old has been indicted for his murder.
Maurice Sutton, 33, was found shot to death in the parking lot of a day care near Panama Park in mid-January. His killer has not been found.
Samantha Lanning said she’s lived across from Panama Park for two years, but the crime has quickly become worse in the past couple of months.
She was impressed with the sheriff's efforts Thursday.
“I think it’s amazing. I really do, because it makes me look at a cop a little bit different, because a lot of times you think they are not willing to do anything, as much as we complain about it, but now it makes me feel like they actually want to take a stand and help out the neighborhood,” Lanning said.
Williams has made a promise to the community that he will do anything to cut down on crime in Jacksonville.
“We have to get involved in the lives of young people early, keep them off the street corners, so they never meet a gang member and never meet a drug dealer and they never go down that path,” Williams said. “There are a lot of people doing that work in the community, and I support every bit of it.”
Along with financial help from the city to put more officers on the streets, Williams said crime prevention is about getting the community to back law enforcement personnel.
“Engaging with the community is a huge piece of reducing violent crime, so we are going to continue to talk about that more and more in the months to come,” Williams said. “But we have to have a day-to-day working relationship in the community to really get us ahead of this issue once and for all.”
State Attorney Angela Corey also took part in the walk to show her support and share her commitment with neighbors.
“There are a lot of families holding out for hope, and I would say (that) we are never going to give up seeking justice for you and your families,” Corey said.
While going door to door, officers told neighbors to join the crime watch program so they know how to more effectively report crimes and keep their families and community safe.