Racially motivated deadly mass shooting brings attention to New Town neighborhood

Residents feel forgotten, frustrated and unsafe

New Town neighborhood works to heal after deadly mass shooting (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The racially motivated murders in Jacksonville’s New Town community created grief and additional strain in an urban neighborhood that was already experiencing challenges. There are no grocery stores in New Town, no restaurants, or access to shopping.

Residents who live in this predominantly African American community say on top not having a lot of resources, now they don’t feel safe. In fact many of them are arming themselves, including women.  Locals say their community in the 32209 zip code has been overlooked for decades, and has now gained national attention for all the wrong reasons.

″They generally forget about us in this neighborhood, because we are what they call the urban core, and at the end of the day we are all human, and we have needs,” New Town Resident, Joyce, said.

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Joyce who has roots in New Town and has been living here for over a decade. She still can’t come to grips with the murders of three innocent black people in a Dollar General store that she and her family frequents.

In her neighborhood, there are churches on practically every corner, but there’s not one grocery store, not one movie theater, sit down restaurant, shopping district or well-kept playground.

″We go to other sides of town we see where it’s more developed, you see a little more TLC, a little more tender loving care. You can see where they take initiative to do extra things, the empty fields are cut, and they actually show they see these people,” Joyce said.

Wesley Phillips also has ties to the New Town community and points out that the racially motivated murders compound issues for the local youth.

“They don’t have a youth center no more, there’s a lot of idle time. Not just for youth but for grown men. A lot of the time, the beef starts when you’re in middle school, you don’t like this guy from this neighborhood, and you don’t like that guy from over there--for what? Just too much idle, time. If you have something to do to work together, then that build relationship, and in other communities with a higher economic status, it’s there, it’s available,” Phillips said.

The City of Jacksonville in recent years has worked to reduce crime in the 32209 zip code, and dedicated resources to address food insecurity and women’s health. But Joyce says here, there’s a lot more that needs to be done. She hopes the attention her neighborhood is getting continues.

″And it takes something like this for the government and for our city officials to notice us, but why notice us when we have to go through something so bad and such hurtful? Why do we have to go through things when you see such animalistic ways come out to finally see and realize that there are real people that live here, and they are hurting and need resources. Now we get attention here, only because it’s the negative. What about the positive?” Joyce asked.

Jacksonville City Officials tell News4JAX they are in the process of working to coordinate relief efforts for people in the New Town area and a spokesperson for Mayor Donna Deegan’s office tells me, there is money in this years budget, to address decades old issues with infrastructure and resources.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.