'Safety First' meeting aims to keep school kids safe

Parents, educators, police met to discuss safety

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of Malik Williams
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of Malik Williams

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Less than two weeks after two Ribault High School students were robbed at gunpoint, parents, police and school officials are coming together to discuss ways for incidents like these to never happen again.

On two separate occasions both students were robbed by a group of three men and Monday, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office arrested one of those men, 19-year-old Malik Williams (pictured below).

The Duval County School District said that because the incidents didn't happen on school property, the investigation had to be conducted by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of Malik Williams
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of Malik Williams

Monday the school met to see what could be done about bridging the gap between school officers and the Sheriff's Office to ensure kids stay safe at school and near campus.

When it comes to guns, if an incident didn't happen on school property, the investigation is done by JSO, no matter how close to campus the incident occurs.

"Besides having bad dreams, my son is pretty strong. He's talking to me about it and talking to the counselor about it. I had to get the counselor involved because no one involved the assistance of a crisis counselor," the mother of one of the robbery victims, who wished not to be identified, said.

With only one of the three criminals police said they were pursuing in custody, that mother did not want to show her face, but she did want to express her disappointment with the "Safety First" meeting Monday night.

"The school board needs to get up and do their job. What we as taxpayers are paying them to do, do it to protect our children before school and after school," the mother said.

Monday's meeting was not only a response to the two robberies that happened outside of the school zone two weeks ago, but an opportunity for school enforcement and community officers, parents and the school board to create a solution to prevent crime from happening in and near schools.

The JSO zone commander of zone 5, where the school is located, was very transparent when he revealed that eight crimes had occurred near the school since August.

Assistant Chief T.K. Waters said that after the most recent incidents, he along with the 176 officers who work that area, stepped up security to ensure more patrols before, during and after school.

School Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti also spoke to parents about the importance of students, school officers and the sheriff's department working together. He did say though that since the most recent incidents did not occur on school ground, the school is not at fault.

"The school district and JSO agreed to patrol this neighborhood more and to share information that we know on the school side and what JSO knows. So I think if we just continue to patrol the neighborhood with more vigilance, share information as much as possible about what might be happening or what did happen, I think we're going to prevent these instances from happening in the future," Vitti said.

At the end of the meeting there was also an open invite to the Sheriff's Advisory Councils meetings. They happen on the First Monday of every month from 6-7 p.m. at Legends Center.

There citizens can talk face to face with the zone commander and tell them exactly what they are seeing.