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Assistant chief uses fresh approach to bridge gap between JSO, community

Greg Burton hits streets to meet people of Zone 6

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Assistant police Chief Greg Burton is determined to figure out what really matters to the people in the community he serves.

In fact, Burton, of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, has made it his mission to get to know the residents of Zone 6, on the city’s Northside. He also wants to get the people involved in keeping their community safe.

“Mike Williams, when he came into (the) office, he brought a new motto with him and that motto is, ‘To serve and protect and (foster a) partnership with our community,’” Burton said. “And so we can't do that unless we bridge the gap with the community.”

Burton has been serving and protecting the community for more than 20 years. But as of just recently, he’s been trying something new.

“I like to go where people are,” said Burton, who has ditched his police car in favor of a new approach to making his rounds.

That means on a daily basis, he’s been offering hot chocolate to people, riding the bus for hours in order to learn about the issues his zone is facing, or simply walking down the sidewalk, smiling.

“You should smile several times a day or really laugh hard,” Burton said. “So I say, 'Would you like to see my pride and joy?' And they'll say, 'Yes.' And then I'll say, 'Pride and joy, I'd like to show this to you. That's your laugh for the day.'"

He encourages people to get active.

“You live in this area?” Burton asked one man, who answered, “Yes, sir.”

“Are you familiar with the Sheriff’s Watch?” asked Burton, igniting a conversation.

The assistant chief spoke of what he’s found so far.

“Most of the crimes that we hear about are the ones that are property crimes,” Burton said. “People want to know that their personal property can be protected. … As a matter of fact, the auto burglaries are the number one driving crime in our city.”

Burton also thanked the people of his zone, especially for going the extra mile in keeping the city safe.

In the end, it seemed like the people were the ones expressing their gratitude.

“Y'all deserve it,” one woman said. “Thank you. I mean, y'all really deserve it. Yes, y'all do. Everything y'all do. It's so much going on. Who can we depend on? You and the forces.”

Burton is a survivor too, having lived through colon cancer and open-heart surgery.