JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is increasing its presence in the areas around several local parks after a pair of Northwest Jacksonville drive-by shootings that left a woman and a 12-year-old boy injured.
The boy was shot in the leg Tuesday as he ran from gunfire at Clark Park on Sibbald Road, and the woman was grazed by a bullet seven minutes later when gunfire erupted at Yancey Park about 2 miles away.
Ben Frazier of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville said Thursday that Sheriff Mike Williams spoke with him and confirmed that patrols are being increased in the areas around those two parks and two others: Scott Park on Hamilton Circle and Johnnie Walker Community Center in the Grand Park neighborhood.
"Our organization is pleased the sheriff is moving to protect and ensure the safety of parents and youngsters,” Frazier said.
News4Jax spotted several officers Friday at Yancey Park, along with a private security firm hired recently by the athletic association to keep an eye on things.
Frazier said Williams told the coalition the officers will be assigned to boost police presence at highly attended sports events.
"NCOJ has zero tolerance for anyone shooting into our parks at our children,” Frazier said. "If residents see something, they should say something. The safety of our children is our greatest priority."
Mayor Lenny Curry stressed how vital it is to have more officers on the streets.
"This is a public safety issue, and anytime there is a shooting anywhere in the city, this is what troubles me, this is what I have been committed to since I've been in office. That's why it's important we continue to make sure we cover all parts of Jacksonville and that would include our parks," Curry told News4Jax on Monday.
Coach Bernard Brown, who witnessed the Clark Park shooting, said the gunmen reloaded and fired for three minutes as 70 children attending a football camp and playing basketball ran for cover behind a concession stand.
He said he ran to help the boy who was injured and that the shooting has sparked changes at the parks.
"We now are forcing them to pay attention to it," Brown said. "Yesterday, I did speak to two detectives. I know that JSO is working on this very hard and around the clock."
But Brown said he has yet to hear from the parks and recreation department about any security or safety changes that might be made at the parks.
News4Jax has also not heard back after several requests for comment from the parks department director.
Police said Thursday that they believe they have found the 2000 blue Buick LeSabre connected to both drive-by shootings. They are asking for anyone with information that might help identify the shooters to contact them at 904-630-0500 or email JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.
"The JSO will continue working with community members, athletic associations, etc., in every neighborhood, to solve these crimes,” Williams said. “And we appreciate all the help we are getting from citizens. The violence of a few cannot be tolerated by our community."