Northside residents appreciative of sheriff's walk

Sheriff Mike Williams, officers address concerns of Eagles Hammock neighbors

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams and dozens of police officers walked through a Northside neighborhood Tuesday in an effort to build bridges between the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and community members.

The sheriff's watch neighborhood crime prevention walk started at 5 p.m. in the Eagles Hammock neighborhood near Yellow Bluff Road. Williams and officers came face to face with the people who depend on them.

"This shows that the police are here. They're here to support us. They're here to be with us and make us a safe community and somewhere I can be proud to live," said Gretcheh Sperow, a neighborhood resident.

Sperow said she made it a priority to take the time to come out and be part of the walk.

"It was important because I wanted to see what they were going to do. You know, I really kind of thought it was going to be Mike Williams walking with us, but I pulled in and saw all the cops here and excitement and I wanted to see what it was all about and what they are doing to support us," Sperow said. 

Williams started the walks over a year ago with the goal of bringing the community and its police force together and addressing any potential concerns that residents may have. 

"They get to engage with officers who work in that neighborhood, outside a call for service. So they didn't call the police for anything, there's no crisis going on, but it's just, again, a conversation with us and the community about what we can do to help in the community," Williams said. "The return is fantastic."

Williams said the benefit of the walks has been greater than he could have imagined. 

"When I first started walking, the return on investment for me was incredible. So I said, you know, they can't wait for me to walk every four to six weeks. We've got to get chiefs walking and lieutenants walking and officers walking neighborhoods." 

Sperow said the experience was a positive one that she hopes will continue. 

"It can't just be one time. They need to continue to come out and show us the support," Sperow said. 

According to the Sheriff's Office, there have been six crimes, half of which were burglaries, reported within a half-mile of the Eagles Hammock neighborhood in the last three months

Williams said he has no plans to cut back on the walks and that the best way to cut back on crime is at the ground level with one-on-one conversations.