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GPD tells City Commission how they plan to address gun violence

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones led off today’s Gainesville City Commission meeting on gun violence by summarizing Gainesville Police Department’s strategy: build trust, invest in prevention and intervention programs, use precision enforcement efforts (Jones emphasized that they would not be using “racial profiling” or harassment), and measure results. The theme for the whole presentation was “One Community.”

Assistant Chief Lonnie Scott Sr. went through a long list of programs that the Gainesville Police Department (GPD) has implemented to try to address gun violence. He said that the plan for every neighborhood involves sitting down with the people who live there and listening to see what they need; the plan for one neighborhood will not be like the plan for a different neighborhood. He said the whole community needs to be involved, including businesses, churches, schools, and the university. He added, “If we don’t listen to you, you’re not going to have much trust in what we do.” 

Investment in youth and young adults

John Alexander told the commission about how GPD’s Operations and Administrative staff, Violence Interrupters (also known as Nspire Interrupters), and School Resource Officers refer youth and young adults to various programs. “Some parents have no idea that their children are involved in gang activity… some parents are naive” that some types of clothing are associated with gang membership, for example. He mentioned a social media campaign to ask parents where their children are at 11 p.m., for example. 

Nspire Interrupters keep case management files regarding the recent shooting activity between youth, and part of their role is to use that information to attempt to minimize retaliation. 

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Alexander said that six additional Nspire Interrupters will be hired and trained through the Project Safe Neighborhood Grant and the state agreement between the Florida Department of Corrections and the City of Gainesville.

Crime data

Chief Inspector Jaime Kurnick spoke about the crime analysis unit: “A very small portion of our population is responsible for the violent crime in the city of Gainesville.” In their weekly meetings, they look at the number of shots fired in the past seven days, number of weapons seized, number of firearms, quantity of narcotics seized, and number of neighbor contacts with and without arrest. 

Kurnick discussed the change in various metrics between August and September of this year. For example, 23 firearms were stolen in September vs. 8 in August. 118 firearms have been stolen in 2021, 66 of which were stolen from vehicles. So far in 2021, 261 firearms have been seized, there have been 101 verified incidents of shots fired, 45 people have been shot or injured by gunfire, and 5 people have been murdered.

The Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data shows that violent crimes except homicide increased from 2020 to 2021 (but both years were above the 3-year average for homicide) while property crimes decreased.

Kurnick also showed an assortment of firearms that were seized in one incident on October 16, 2021. She said this is “commonplace.”

Kurnick said that violent crime across the county was up 5.6% from 2019 to 2020. She presented a number of maps showing where various incidents have happened in Gainesville this year. There are only four locations because there were two homicides at 912 E. University Avenue.

The next maps show incidents in August and September of 2021.

Gun Buy Back

Assistant Chief Scott talked about the Gun Buy Back Program; the next one is October 30. Gift cards will be provided to those who turn in guns, and GPD will minimize the information collected and promise “total immunity.” GPD is making a special appeal to parents to check their homes for weapons and turn them in: “If they discover a gun that they don’t own, they can turn it in to one of two churches on a selected day and time for a gift card. The parent will have total immunity during this time.” GPD will also provide gun safes at the event so people can lock up their guns. 

In response to a question from Commissioner Harvey Ward, Scott said the guns they collect are destroyed. Commissioner David Arreola mentioned a memorial in Minneapolis that casts confiscated guns into concrete to make them inoperable. Scott said they’re collecting information on an art piece made from confiscated weapons, but they haven’t committed to that yet.

Social media messaging

Alexander said GPD is trying to identify funds to develop a public safety education program to remind people to lock their vehicles. A social media campaign reminding residents to lock their vehicles every night at 9 p.m. ran seven days a week from December 5, 2019, to April 30, 2020. GPD plans on starting that up again. 

Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said,  “A lot of this is irresponsible behavior” by gun owners who leave guns in unlocked vehicles. Jones said there is no statute making that illegal because people would be reluctant to report thefts if they could be penalized for not securing the firearm. 

Saco said the 9 p.m. reminder was “one of my favorite programs you’ve ever done,” and the one night she didn’t see the message, her car was broken into. Alexander said he hoped to get it launched soon.

One Community Neighbor Response Council

GPD will also soon create the One Community Neighbor Response Council by advertising for neighbors and community leadership participation on the council. They hope to hold the first meeting in the next few weeks. 

Within that council, a Violent Crime Workgroup will be formed. The mission is to curb violence; reduce the growing number of homicides and shootings in the city; and develop specific, community-wide steps that citizens and leaders can take to make their communities safer.

The workgroup hopes to do that by connecting communities and GPD to develop more effective community policing methods, build positive relationships between police officers and citizens, educate citizens on their rights and the role and responsibility of law enforcement officers, mobilize the community to create an environment friendly to crime reporting, advocate for legislative and policy changes to promote a safer community for all residents, and create support for parents. 

Neighborhood Support Unit

Assistant Chief Terry Pearce introduced the Neighborhood Support Unit, with the goal of “leaving people better than we find them.” It will be a group of specialists that have the resources to help Patrol work on these initiatives. Their mission is to connect non-governmental agencies with the people who need their services. The unit is “in its infancy” and will be staffed by taking one or two officers from several other units.

Jones said that GPD looks at risk factors for violence, including individual characteristics that make individuals more likely to engage in violent activity; interpersonal characteristics like social rejection, low commitment to school, and gang involvement; and family characteristics, including low parental involvement, parental substance abuse, and lack of supervision. 

Jones said that Patrol Operations, the Neighborhood Support Unit, and Investigations will work together, not in individual silos, bringing the presentation back to the “One Community” theme.

Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker said she has lived in District 1 all her life, and now she sees “more red and blue lights coming down 8th Avenue than I’d like to see.” She said she spoke to some young people at Duval in a summer program, and she wrote down their suggestions: “First, they’re suggesting that in gun violence, alcohol plays a role… They want to get guns off the streets. They want trackers on guns if they’re stolen. No automatic guns to civilians. They want stricter gun laws. They want to ban alcohol from people with records. No guns if you have mental health issues. Stop selling weed by the corner store. There is a reason that I’m reading this list. It is because this is what our young people are telling us. And I believe it’s incredibly important for us to listen, and heed what they’re saying.”

She said that the young people also told her, “We need things to do, places to go… martial arts, chess club, rugby, gymnastics, fitness, theater, and the list goes on and on. Part of me was heartbroken to hear the list because it’s so simple… I have vowed that, as my personal mission… that it’s time to listen to them, and so part of my response is a Town Hall discussion involving… the youth of this city. I believe the adults have talked enough…

“I will be presenting a resolution… for us to have a sustained response to this issue… I’ve begun having conversations with the Superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools Carlee Simon to see… what a partnership would look like between us and Alachua County Public Schools…” She said Duval Elementary School is in her district, and it’s “an incredible space that should be repurposed… to become a cultural center and a community space where we can give the kids what they are asking for.” She said the arts can divert kids off the streets and give them a creative outlet. She said the County and Alachua County Sheriff’s Office need to be involved, too. 

Duncan-Walker said she’s also been talking to the president of Santa Fe College to provide job training at Duval. “Gun violence is a major issue that we have to get our hands around. It’s going to take us all because I refuse to allow it to continue to kill us all.”

  • Gainesville breeds criminals mainly due to the negative effects of high taxes, needless spending, high utility cost, and over-regulation of businesses and rental housing. All of this keeps poor minorities boxed up in shabby housing or projects on the east side and makes it next to impossible for the poor to dig out. Feel-good money wasting plans like this will have zero results. Another tax, spend and use up gov grants on fake jobs is all they presented.

    • Remember it was the BOCC that shut down the greatest opportunity in a quarter century when they denied the Possum Creek development in eastern Alachua County.

      And the left still believes…

      • I agree, but worse almost nobody from the eastside showed up,to support the Plum Creek plan at the BOCC’s final vote. It was just the usual greentards and hippy fossils who want status quo to justify their non-profit pipe dreams. Eastside pastors should have bussed in supporters, but nope. They love things the way they are, just like the mob and loan sharks do.

        • True that! Unfortunate many black Americans, as well as white Americans, can’t see the forest through the trees. They’re destined to living with the results of their voting decisions.

          Those greentards and hippy fossils as you so eloquently described them, have theirs…now they want to prevent others from getting something themselves.

          Some people can’t help but believe…

  • The theme for the whole presentation was “One Community.” ~ Last statistic I read does not indicate the residents of Haile Plantation shooting much more than golf balls.

    “A very small portion of our population is responsible for the violent crime in the city of Gainesville.” ~ Chief Inspector Jaime Kurnick

    Here’s an idea… Maybe it’s time to cull ’em from the herd.

    “Some parents have no idea that their children are involved in gang activity… some parents are naive” ~ John Alexander

    That tends to be a problem when the parent, (and it’s usually only one until there’s a lawsuit), who is more concerned with how many yards their child can rush or pass instead of whether their child is getting passing grades in school, (or even attending).

    Jones said that GPD looks at risk factors for violence, including individual characteristics that make individuals more likely to engage in violent activity; interpersonal characteristics like social rejection, low commitment to school, and gang involvement; and family characteristics, including low parental involvement, parental substance abuse, and lack of supervision. ~ Maybe the SBAC should take special note and stop blaming someone being white for inequity.

    Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said, “A lot of this is irresponsible behavior” by gun owners who leave guns in unlocked vehicles. ~ Once again, he’s an idiot.

    Criminals are breaking into cars that DON’T BELONG TO THEM! This idiot commissioner blames it on the person who left the car unlocked. I’m embarrassed to even say how stupid he is. He represents a highly educated community…REALLY? We have to have someone better than that.

    “We need things to do, places to go… martial arts, chess club, rugby, gymnastics, fitness, theater, and the list goes on and on.” ~ quoted as being said by youth from Duncan-Walker

    When I was growing up, we rode bikes or played tag. We didn’t go looking for a gun to shoot at people.

    Notice a trend? A bunch of liberals blaming someone else for their inadequacies.

    It’s really sad, so many people keep on believing…

    • Hit the nail on the head! It is hard to believe how a few hypocritical, ignorant commissioners can say such idiotic stupid things. The 3 White Woke Musketeers (Ward, po and Hayes) would win award after award at a pathetic, ignorant, failure convention. Their polices CAUSE this mess. No reason to lock up criminal law breakers. Just give them monthly felon checks, cashless bail, extra food stamps and a yearly bus pass. That’s actually what those 3 have tried to pass. Not failed leadership but ignorance and stupidity at its finest! We won, at a race to the bottom. Time to vote the out of office for life, or move.

    • I agree with you 100% the problem is they think that it’s supposed to be that way they think it’s okay to break in your car still your stuff and then you be blamed for leaving the door unlocked when it boils down to it’s a crime to break into somebody’s car we have a lot of left wing nuts trying to run this city and until the people stand up and quit trying to get all that free s*** that never comes about this exactly what you got to live for now let me tell you how to take care of that just get yourself a concealed carry permit but that firearm on you because if you’re waiting on the Gainesville Police Department or the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office to come and save you you will be waiting for a very long time we have a meth problem in our neighborhood and we cannot get them to do they know it they know about it but they just won’t do anything about it they don’t want to upset the people because that would be targeting bottom line is there breaking the f****** law and you need to correct it

  • Twenty plus years of coddling the little juvenile criminals has finally come home to roost on Uncle Tony Jones and his lenient diversion programs. Its now time to pay the piper. These superficial programs to keep the citizens quiet are totally useless just like Jones and his commanders. Its somewhat like General Milly and his Joint Chiefs of Staff! Impotent!!!!!!!! A new chief with good old fashioned police sense will make things tough on the little criminals as will a decent States Attorney who puts the wood to them! Thats what it it will take. These are not choir boys, they are hardened criminals who belong behind bars!

  • If it’s youth related, it’s likely the usual factors as before, but aggravated by kids being home bored a lot since the Covid lockdowns began last year. Parents who are clueless are just counting the days until those kids are 18 and they can legally boot them out, sadly. In summary, I’d cut funding in new Clockwork Orange programs and put it into expanding enrollment in Lofton and A Quinn Jones HSs. The number of delinquent kids only increased since the Obama days encouraged more needy children with more social and healthcare welfare subsidies (fertilizer on weeds). What’s worse is the legal system is now a revolving door to feed useless lawyers and judges. You get what you voted for — no wonder legal gun sales are increasing 🙁

    • If it’s a juvenile minor child, charge the parent too.
      It’s their child and their responsibility until the delinquent is 18. Then adult prison.

  • Forgot to mention I will personally override codes enforcement and have open air drugs and alcohol sales at a rap concert the same day as homecoming promoted by federally convicted drug dealers.

  • This presentation has a serious flaw to solving the problem. Read the arrest reports on the Chronicle. It is obvious there are two “centers” of shooting activity in Alachua County. (a third center is downtown at 2 AM bar closing time) One is east of Waldo Road, which is in the City of Gainesville. The other is the Holly Heights/Majestic Oaks area west of I-75, which is in the County. Unless the county does the same things as the city does, the “Gainesville area” shootings will not be controlled.
    .
    In addition, this statement is pure BS. “Jones emphasized that they would not be using “racial profiling””. Read the arrest reports. It appears 95+% of the shooting victims, shooters, and owners of stolen guns are black males in the 17 to 27 year age range. Facts, not profiling. When a politician like Jones says “I am not going to profile” it translates to “To prove we do not profile, GPD will spend as much time on sorority row looking for white Delta Delta Delta sisters to pop a few rounds from their AK47 as GPD will spend on 8th Ave. east of Waldo Road looking for black teen gang bangers.” Denial of realty to be politically correct. Result: nothing is going to change. Sad.

    • O.W…great conclusion that I can agree with. You have to admit though, you can’t blame GPD for strolling sorority row.

      I mean, Halloween is right around the corner.😉 Pretty creative costumes they have this time of year.

      • How about this? Use a gun in a crime and you’re done! 10,20, life!
        All the F heads who steal a gun, who are caught carrying a gun without a permit, who shoot
        Someone, etc. get MANDATORY ENHANCED
        JAIL TIME…that works!!! Also, under what authority
        Does GPD grant this “immunity” when it comes
        To these gun buy back programs? The most precious
        Thing in this life is our liberty & freedom. Lock the gun
        Thieving, black on black crime committing assholes
        Up and stick them on probation when they get out for a very long time, and if they violate their probation, it’s back to the lock-up! Locking em up is a real violence
        Interrupter!!!!

    • If springs county doesn’t have subsidized housing,
      Then I’m moving there.

  • Policing in Gainesville has gone the way of the city commision, blame the victims of crime and discontent and deflect all responsibility of leadership and responsibility back on the victims. Then fudge the numbers, refuse to accept the facts of their failures and say it’s time to do a reset with emphasis on the victims attitudes being the issue. GPD leadership have thrown their hands up and put it back on the community they are failing. If that’s the case, please dissolve the city commision, the police and the fake police advisory board and “we’ll take care of it”. I got locked up for using that phrase in my own GPD nightmare so let me me clarify that I’m not advocating violence in any form. I’m a violence interrupter that now can no longer support GPD or the CC but I will continue to fight for my neighbors across all boundaries and challenges. You can’t restore trust in the community with your lies and misdirection.

  • As usual, not one word about enforcing the existing laws, much less to the fullest. Slaps on the wrist and hiring felons to stop other felons do not work.

  • I don’t know…someone told me that a Dr. told him
    “It’s genetic”… I don’t know if there’s any truth there…

  • Just a heads up for our “east side” neighbors I’ll put here because the mainstream media is bought and paid for… another “program” in the works as a result of the Senate Commission on violence (aka; Keith Perry et al) was the police comments to the board recently that said they need more more more (you name it) but one area of intense focus was the police inability to adequately monitor social media sites (spy on the general public at large kinda like all the cameras popping up around the city). The push is to be able to monitor the public in Gainesville which will be GREATLY ENHANCED when the city “gives” the “east side” it’s very own Broadband access through a city run and maintained portal. That’l keep those slow responding tech giants from withholding that information from law enforcement in the name of freedom and privacy. Think about that. Its going to be funded by recovery act money already in the city’s hand. Hmm…

  • How about sentencing them to 10 YEARS HARD LABOR on the FIRST offense??? Three Strike is Bull-Crap. Lock the worthless thugs up!

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