Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Springfield Festival Has Big Purpose; Residents Want to Fight Drug Dealers, Prostitution

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Springfield Festival Has Big Purpose; Residents Want to Fight Drug Dealers, Prostitution

Article excerpt

Byline: John Carter, Staff writer

They're determined to "take back the streets."

And they're convinced they have just the right person to help them do it -- a street preacher who's been known to take a megaphone to the street corner and get right in drug dealers' faces.

They're a group of folks in north Springfield who have just formed a neighborhood watch association and are holding their first Neighborhood Watch Spring Festival from noon to 4 p.m. today on West 18th Street between Main and Silver streets.

They'll have live music, food, health screenings and lots of talks about what residents need to do to help police control the prostitution, drug dealing and burglaries that plague the area.

"I think it's wonderful that these brave souls come in here and step up to the plate, express their concerns and then start making plans to fight crime in their community," said Greg Grant, a community relations officer for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

The new group was founded by Osnald Calizaire Sr. and his assistant, Kimberly Collins, after Calizaire bought two two-story, red-brick buildings at West 18th and Silver streets to house his newly formed Youth Empowerment Association, a non-profit set up to motivate and support youths in under-served communities.

He's working closely with Bishop W.F. Williams and members of William's nearby Life Temple of Deliverance. Williams calls himself a street preacher and says he started his ministry by yelling in the streets, confronting drunks and prostitutes and drug abusers. Without blinking, he talks about confronting crack cocaine addicts, preaching loudly in their faces and watching the "crack demons" scurry away across the ground, retreating from the words of the gospel.

"We will take back our streets from the weak people who break the law because of low self-esteem and hopelessness," Williams said. "But we can't just scream at them and tell them about all the things they are doing wrong. We have to have a positive message as well. We have to give them something to do and give them something to believe."

Calizaire said he is trying to provide positive and healthy alternatives to youths with his Youth Empowerment Association, but that he needs to help the neighborhood combat a "constant level of crime" before his organization can gain a foothold. …

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