JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hours after a new crime reduction program was officially launched in Northwest Jacksonville, Sheriff John Rutherford led a prayer and went walking through one of the neighborhoods hard-hit by gun violence this year.
Rutherford on Tuesday laid out a new initiative called Operation Ceasefire, which targets communities most affected by a recent up-tick in crime.
The sheriff said the program is all about connecting with the community and taking neighborhoods back.
In the last year in the area there has been a 43 percent increase in aggravated assaults where a weapon was fired. The sheriff said there were 60 reported aggravated batteries and assaults involving firearms in April alone.
Rutherford said getting those numbers down is starting to work though by going door-to-door.
"We have already knocked on about 4,000 (out of 18,000) of the doors that we need to visit," Rutherford said. "We are seeking the assistance of the communities."
Rutherford was joined by City Council member Denise Lee, Mayor Alvin Brown and other city leaders to formally introduce Operation Ceasefire.
So far this month, he said 10 firearms, 156 grams of marijuana and 381 grams of cocaine have been seized in the crime reduction program.
Lee said cameras will also be installed in several target zones within the neighborhood but wouldn't provide any other details on exactly where they would be going or an official price tag.
"The thugs and the non-law-abiding people have decided they can do what they want to when they want to, and the most heinous of their strategies is to shoot at the police and law-abiding citizens," Lee said. "We will no longer tolerate it, stand for it or put up with it."
After the sheriff led a Neighborhood Crime Prevention Walk in the Concord Park area, resident Betty Hoover says the new police initiative is long overdue.
"I think it's a good thing anytime you have something that's going to help the crime and bring it to the people's attention," Hoover said.
Rutherford said Operation Ceasefire was being financed with money the Sheriff's Office sets aside for summer enforcement, when schools are out and there tend to be more problems.