Recent violence puts spotlight on Keystone Heights crime

Clay County Sheriff’s Office holds neighborhood walk Tuesday in small town

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS, Fla. – The Clay County Sheriff’s Office held a neighborhood walk Tuesday afternoon in Keystone Heights.

The community walk, which started at Keystone Heights Elementary School, comes as newsworthy crime issues have been plaguing the small town in the last couple of months.

In late November, a man was beaten to death with baseball bats at a home down a dirt road. Along another dirt road across town, there was a triple shooting on New Year’s Eve that left two people dead. Just Monday, News4Jax learned that the Sheriff’s Office was looking into a suspected teenage fight club after videos posted on social media attracted attention.

Christina Underwood, who just moved back to Keystone Heights after being gone a few years, said it concerns her to hear about crime in the small town.

“This is a nice community -- good people," she told News4Jax on Tuesday ahead of the community walk.

Underwood said there has been a very visible law enforcement presence near her home in recent months.

“It was bad in the back of the subdivision, but police have been going through quite a bit now, the sheriff’s department,” she said. “I know they’ve closed down a couple of drug houses.”

The Sheriff’s Office told News4Jax that it has just as many deputies in Keystone Heights per resident as the agency does in Green Cove Springs or Orange Park. Deputies also said all Sheriff’s Office cruisers have four-wheel drive to handle the dirt roads.

Clay County leaders are aware of this. Commissioner Gavin Rollins, who lives in Keystone Heights, said he’s been in touch with Sheriff Darryl Daniels about the recent violence. The closest Sheriff’s Office substation is roughly 30 minutes away in Middleburg, but Rollins said Keystone Height’s City Hall currently has a radio system set up where deputies can work, and he’s open to more.

“I’m certainly open to the Sheriff’s Office if they say there are additional resources needed in terms of a building," Rollins said. "I’m sure we could help in coordinating with the city of Keystone Heights itself who doesn’t have a separate police department.”

Additionally, Rollins said, the commission recently approved a $4 million increase for the Sheriff’s Office budget -- one of the largest year-to-year increases in Clay County history.

The Sheriff’s Office also does “Walk-In Wednesdays” in Keystone Heights, where the agency selects one business to visit each week to keep a strong relationship with the community.

Numerous residents also told News4Jax that they believe the primary reason crimes get attention in Keystone Heights is because they’re infrequent, and they feel their small town is much safer than Jacksonville.

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