JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville sheriff candidates Democrat Lakesha Burton and Republican T.K. Waters met with the community Monday night at a forum ahead of Election Day as a final push to hear people’s concerns and address the community.
Faith leaders and dozens of Jacksonville residents gathered at the Christ the King Catholic Church to hear how both candidates would handle issues such as civil citations and building the public’s trust as the next sheriff.
Lloydette Noisette was one of the speakers at the forum. She said she wants to see crime rates decrease in the city -- it’s an issue that is driving her to cast her ballot on Election Day.
“As a mother, I feel this in my gut. I feel for families that have lost someone they loved. I believe it doesn’t have to happen,” Noisette said. “When people don’t trust the police, they don’t report crime and violence increases.”
Burton explained how she would combat those issues if she were to win the sheriff race Tuesday.
“If we are going to build our trust with our community and we want to go and knock on their doors to offer resources, we can’t knock on the doors with a gang unit and our SWAT team,” Burton said.
Waters said he helped develop a group violence intervention program at JSO that focuses on community outreach to try to prevent crime.
“I think it’s also very important that we address the issues and the violence as previously stated in our community and that’s one way that we do it and so the partnership is there and we will continue to work that partnership,” Waters said.
Speakers also asked the candidates how they felt about implementing a civil citation program that would issue citations for adults instead of charging them for low-level crimes.
One speaker noted that the most common misdemeanor in Duval County is for driving with a suspended or revoked license, and many of them are also due to paperwork problems.
“We end up having a system that punishes people too often for being poor and the criminal record they receive creates a lifelong burden that keeps them from being able to get a job or decent housing -- the things they would need to have a stable life,” said Reverend Bill Hoff.
Waters said he supports the idea for juveniles, but not for adults.
“I think it’s very important to continue to hold adults accountable just as you will hold me accountable if I sit in that seat come here shortly. I think that’s very, very important and that’s a need for our community,” Waters said.
Burton, on the other hand, supports the idea.
“I am in favor of adult civil citations for first-time offenders for non-violent, victimless crimes. I know that our state attorney and public defender’s office are in agreement with this,” Burton said.
Both candidates shared their final messages to encourage voters to go to the polls Tuesday.