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Walk aims to improve communication between Grand Park residents, police

Jacksonville sheriff, his officers go door to door in neighborhood

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the first time this year, Sheriff Mike Williams held a neighborhood walk in the Grand Park area of Northwest Jacksonville.

The event Wednesday evening allowed the sheriff and some of his officers to go door-to-door to meet neighbors and hear their concerns about crime and personal safety. 

According to the JSO crime-mapping tool, there have been 30 assaults, one homicide, 15 thefts, three burglaries and six car break-ins in the last 16 days within a mile radius of the area where the walk took place. 

Neighbors say that JSO crime map only shows a small sample of the problems in the area. They also say part of the problem is a lack of communication and respect between residents and police. And that's why the sheriff said he came out there. 

Evans Mobley Jr. is a former Savannah, Georgia, police officer who now owns properties in Grand Park. He says the biggest problem he’s seen in the area is drugs.

He’s not the only person who feels that way. Other Grand Park residents say vacant homes are used as drug houses and havens for other types of illegal activity.

Williams says he’s aware that drug activity is leading to other crimes. 

"Drugs fuel probably 70% to 80% of the crime in the city and anywhere -- not just here," he said. "So there’s a driver to all these types of crimes and issues."

Crimes like street prostitution that, according to some neighbors, happen in broad daylight.

"It’s bad," Mobley said. "We know it’s here."

Other neighbors say despite how bad the crime is in the area, they don’t trust police enough to report it. They say if there was better communication between officers and neighbors, more crimes would be solved.

"Most of the violence that takes place around here is vigilante justice and then there’s retaliation for the vigilante justice. The vast majority of the violence is 'I was accosted by someone and I don’t trust law enforcement, so I’ll take the law into my own hands,'" Larry Chambers said. 

Charles Winn said, "I think they need to get to know the inside of a person rather than saying, 'I’m going to stop you because I see you in your car and you fit a profile.'"

The sheriff agrees that better communication is needed, but says that's not the only thing.

"Really, what I get is, 'Hey, we want to see more police in the neighborhood,'" Williams said. "That’s what I get."

He went on to say that making this community safe is a work in progress.

It’s also worth noting that the area has ShotSpotter, so every time a gun goes off, police know about it.

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