JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sheriff T.K. Waters unveiled his vision for the future of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday night during a town hall at the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center.
He shared how he plans to spend the nearly $600 million he’s asking for from the city council and spoke about the need for more community policing. And he did it in front of a packed house. So many people showed up that some had to stand.
The people in attendance heard about JSO’s realignment project which will change the current zones to districts and a new program called ‘Connect Duval’ which Waters said will help officers get evidence quicker.
One person said after listening to Waters speak she thinks the $600 million will be well spent.
“I think you can’t put a budget on trying to make our city safer. Whatever we need, I think we need to do it,” Melissa Jackson said.
Sheriff Waters said with the city growing the way it is JSO needs more officers, especially since he wants to put more of an emphasis on community policing.
To do so, he said 216 officers need to be hired. But he is only requesting 80 for next year.
He also detailed “Connect Duval,” a voluntary program where residents can sign up and have their cameras registered with JSO to allow the department, if needed, to get evidence quicker and solve crimes.
“If we have folks that sign up and are willing to allow us to use their video that’s going to be huge,” Sheriff Waters said. “Because you don’t have to necessarily catch the crime in progress, but what you do see is the individual walking down the street. Maybe trying doors and that kind of stuff helps us tremendously.”
Waters’ administration also rolled out its realignment project. It will get rid of the current patrol zone, created about a quarter of a century ago, and switch to districts. There will be six of them, 24 sectors and about 144 sub-sectors. This will better help officers address patrol services like response times and help with job satisfaction, Waters said.
“Doing this and getting closer we can connect back up with our community again and do better,” he added.
Waters said that would help address crime, which he mentioned is on the decline this year, something Mary Dennis liked.
“I’m happy to hear his plan about the gun violence and the drugs and stuff like that. I’m just happy to hear he has a plan,” Dennis said.
Besides addressing crime and community policing the sheriff also unveiled JSO would be getting new vehicles, which the taxpayers won’t have to pay for.
And while most people News4JAX spoke to said they left feeling better about the future of the city, especially after the question and answer portion, some didn’t.
“We don’t need any new cars,” said Lashonda. “I was not impressed at all. We should have officers living in the zone that they are patrolling. So that way they get to know the community.”
News4JAX asked if the town hall would happen next year and one officer said it’s a possibility.