Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Community Responds to Crime Plan; Nearly 300 Gather to Voice Concerns about Funding Peyton's Initiative

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Community Responds to Crime Plan; Nearly 300 Gather to Voice Concerns about Funding Peyton's Initiative

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID HUNT

It's the criminal underworld you sometimes hear about on the news: Drug dealers roaming the streets, the occasional bullet blasting through the night, police cruisers rolling anonymously past homes.

To Ayesha Covington, it's right outside. She couldn't stress that enough as she spoke to a panel working on Mayor John Peyton's Jacksonville Journey anti-crime plan.

"Being the murder capital doesn't bother me," she said. "Burying my daughter's friend and seeing bullet holes in the wall, that bothers me. That's real."

Covington was one of a crowd of nearly 300 people packing the Clanzel Brown Community Center during Thursday's meeting. It was the second session to gather public input on the plan, which aims to reduce the city's growing murder rate by helping kids stay in school and ex-cons stay out of prison.

Covington's comments were among those from a line that quickly formed to sound off on everything from poverty to racism as factors that led to 152 homicides citywide in 2007 and dozens so far this year.

It was an emotional meeting that, at moments, carried the spirit of a religious service. When Peyton talked about truancy, he said there is an "astounding amount of young people walking the streets." The crowd piped up, "Amen."

Funding the plan is expected to cost $36.2 million in the first year and $61.6 million annually after five years, with about a third of that money going toward law enforcement.

When Peyton described the plan to the audience, he said it generated "a little bit of controversy" this week as its funding committee recommended raising the property tax rate to pay for it. Ultimately, the City Council would have to decide on that before the 2008-09 budget is adopted.

While no specific millage increase was included in the vote, the panel talked about an additional mill to 1. …

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