Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Upstart Group Calls for Public's Help Making Jacksonville Parks Safer

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Upstart Group Calls for Public's Help Making Jacksonville Parks Safer

Article excerpt

Byline: Garrett Pelican

There was a noticeable police presence Thursday evening at Yancey Park in Northwest Jacksonville as parents filled the bleachers to watch their children's T-ball games, though the activity was muted at nearby Charles "Boobie" Clark Park.

The scene was a vast change from the night before when no police were there to monitor things during a youth football practice held at Clark Park due to an apparent scheduling mishap between community organizers and the Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Mike Williams vowed to step up patrols at four parks - Yancey, Clark, Walker and Scott parks - after a boy, 12, was shot in the leg in an apparent drive-by shooting June 20 at Clark Park. Then a woman was wounded by gunfire from the same vehicle at Yancey Park hours later. The vehicle was later found, but no arrests have been reported.

A spokesman for the newly established Park Improvement Safety Alliance, a cadre of community leaders, said the group has been in contact with authorities, who have begun addressing their concerns. But he said police can't do it alone.

"We as a community should have been stepped up, but the Lord works in mysterious ways and sometime things happen for a reason to wake us up and get us moving in the right direction," said the Rev. Aaron Flagg, Jr.

That was something that resonated with Frederick Ronald Davis Jr., who volunteers as a coach with the Grand Park Athletic Association at Walker Park. He said neighbors and parents need to help out by policing their own communities.

"I believe in Black Lives Matter, but it doesn't make a difference if we're killing each other," said Davis, adding that the effort still requires support from city and law enforcement leaders.

Flagg said police have already increased patrols, noting an officer circling the park, in light of the recent incidents, and hinted that there might be additional unseen officers present. …

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