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Recent violence sparks concerns ahead of 4th of July

JSO says it's prepared to protect residents at Downtown celebration

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville police and city residents are on high alert for the Fourth of July celebration Downtown after violence at large events and on holidays earlier this year and at several city parks recently.

Two teens were shot during the first Art Walk event of the year in January, and a 16-year-old was killed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in front of the Jacksonville Landing.

A pair of drive-by shootings at parks late last month have many parents in Northwest Jacksonville on edge. A 12-year-old boy was injured and a woman was grazed by a bullet in those shootings.

As thousands plan to head Downtown for the city's annual fireworks display, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said it is ready to keep its citizens safe.

“We are aware of the amplified use of our parks and the other locations where people gather in celebration of the Fourth of July, and we will be patrolling throughout the city,” a sheriff's office said in a statement. “We would like to take this opportunity to remind citizens to stay mindful of the heat/weather, alcohol consumption, the illegal use of guns, and take precautions with fireworks -- and pay attention to children (and their safety and well-being) at all times.”

Officers will be increasing patrols to make sure residents stay safe.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said the recent violence should have some people concerned.

“In certain neighborhoods where there is a lot of gunfire, there could be some confusion with firecrackers and gunfire,” Smith said. “That's why it may not be a good idea to have the kids out at night in certain neighborhoods, especially if there's been recent gunfire.”

Jacksonville resident Debbie Yarbrough said she feels safer in big crowds, but Smith said large numbers of people don't equal safety.

“Sometimes these crimes occur where people gather,” he said. “Some people attempt robberies, pickpocket. With the intense heat, that could intensify the amount of crimes that occur.”

The city said three permits have been issued for block parties at various locations in the city.


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