Grand Park teen: 'I'm tired of seeing them die'

Residents, community leaders meet to discuss violence in Grand Park

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Following the shooting death earlier this week of 16-year-old Devron Crowden at a bus stop, the Grand Park community met Friday night to discuss the ongoing problems with violence in the area.

City leaders, anti-crime activists and local residents packed the Emanuel Missionary Baptist Church, saying they are tired of crime.

Many of the residents said they have known too many people in Grand Park who are now in a cemetery because of the violence.

Cameron Smith, 16, said he hopes a solution is offered, but he's not sure if enough people his age care if anything changes.

"I just wanted to see change. People my age, I'm tired of seeing them die," Smith said. "Some people don't (care) because this is what they grew up around, and when they lose a friend, they want to take someone else's life."

Another concern in the community is a fear of retaliation against people who tell police about criminal activity. People who witness crimes are afraid of being labeled "snitches" for speaking up.

Anthony Stinson said his son was killed in a drive-by shooting in May 2013 off 17th Street, and since then he's learned firsthand how much the fear of retaliation overwhelms the ability to stop crime in the area.

"People are afraid to tell because of retaliation, but until you start saying something about what you see, you're going to keep having things go on in the neighborhood," Stinson said. "It is really appalling that we have to live under the conditions that everyone's afraid to say anything."

News cameras were not allowed inside Friday's meeting so that people wouldn't be afraid to speak up. Mayor Alvin Brown was there and said he hopes people feel safe enough to be honest.

"It's important to listen to them. You had the police officers here, faith leaders here, and it's good to listen to the community," Brown said. "Everyone had different perspectives."

Others at the meeting brought up issues like single mothers with unruly children and what types of services are available for families and young people. They are looking to city leaders and each other for answers.

"Everything starts at home with the parents. We keep doing this and march -- you've got to have a strategic plan about marching," said Dr. Jelly Jackson, a Grand Park resident. "And train them up like the Bible says, Ephesians, the sixth chapter. We've got to take our kids back."

Brown said he hopes to offer leadership to a community that's hurting, frustrated and sometimes downright scared that the next murder will hit close to home.

"We shouldn't lose any young person in our city at all. And so this meeting is an opportunity to come together, listen to the community, see how we can work together to solve the problems," Brown said. "Coming here in a safe place where we can have this conversation and listen to them and listen intently, it is my hope and prayer as mayor that we'll be able to come up with solutions to problems in our community."

News4Jax crime analyst Gil Smith said in the case of fear of retaliation, it's important to remember Crime Stoppers allows people to report crime and remain anonymous. Smith said even if someone's arrested for a crime reported through Crime Stoppers, officials can't get a phone number to subpoena the caller to appear in court. No one will ever know the name of the person who called.

The number for Crime Stoppers is 866-845-TIPS.

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