Mayor Brown said the community-based strategies include expanding adult-supervised youth programs at parks and community centers; working with youth sports leagues at City of Jacksonville parks to promote personal accountability; increasing summer job opportunities; enhancing juvenile justice efforts to reduce recidivism; partnering with the faith community to mentor youth and prevent violence; and providing more neighborhood-based opportunities for families to connect with needed services.
The mayor announced his crime prevention and intervention strategies at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast at the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center, featuring National Urban League President/CEO and former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial as keynote speaker.
See photos from the 28th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast
“We remember Dr. King as an inspiring leader who challenged us to make a better world,” said Morial. “Mayor Brown has embraced Dr. King’s challenge with his vision and leadership to make Jacksonville the very best city possible for all of its residents. There is hardly a better way to honor and carry forward Dr. King’s historic dream than by keeping our young people safe and helping them achieve success in life.”
At last year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast, Mayor Brown unveiled his Youth Initiative. In the year since, the City tripled the number of private-sector employers participating in the Summer Jobs Program for teens, added a Neighborhood Accountability Board in Mayport for first-time nonviolent juvenile offenders, secured a major state grant to improve access to mental health and substance abuse services for juvenile offenders, established a Young Leaders Advisory Council and introduced a Summer Urban Parks Initiative (Rec 'N Roll Jax).
In November, Mayor Brown launched Renew Jax as a major citywide initiative to empower Jacksonville’s neighborhoods, improve quality of life and expand economic opportunities. Renew Jax is based on public-private partnerships with a wide range of community and nonprofit groups, including LISC Jacksonville, which has made a commitment to invest $20 million in housing and economic development. That private investment is being leveraged by federal and state funding that the City has secured, with a total impact of nearly $39 million.
The new crime prevention and intervention strategies are also based on public-private partnerships. The mayor said that, while a limited amount of City funding will be reallocated to support these activities, much of the support will come from external and community partners.
“Mayor Brown has been a true leader in reaching out to build partnerships with the faith community,” said Pastor John Guns, Senior Pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church and founder of Save Our Sons. “Churches and faith-based organizations have an essential role in stopping violence in our neighborhoods by instilling hope and self-worth in our young people. We need all hands on deck to show our young people that we care about them, we want what is best for them and we certainly don't want to see them end up dead or in prison.”
The following is a summary of the crime prevention and intervention strategies:
Re-Open and Extend Hours at Community Centers
To give teens a safe place to gather with adult supervision when school is out, Mayor Brown said he will seek to re-open five community centers (Blue Cypress, Joe James, Lew Brantley, Lewis-Cobb and Westside) for afterschool and summer programming. He will work to extend the hours of operation at another center (Johnnie Walker).
Expand Summer Urban Parks Initiative (Rec ’N Roll Jax)
Mayor Brown said he will work to expand the Summer Urban Parks Initiative (Rec 'N Roll Jax) to a total of 18 parks this summer. The program provides adult-supervised recreation activities. Thanks to private support, Rec 'N Roll Jax started last summer for eight weeks at 10 parks in high-crime neighborhoods. Within a half-mile radius of all but one of the parks, crime rates declined during the time the Rec 'N Roll Jax program was in operation.
Develop a Youth Sports Initiative Focused on Personal Accountability
Mayor Brown said he will develop a Youth Sports Initiative, partnering with youth sports organizations to implement best practices to promote personal accountability and sportsmanship. An estimated 20,000 young people participate in organized sports leagues every year in Jacksonville’s public parks, offering an ideal opportunity to encourage self-respect, respect for others, positive teamwork and effective conflict resolution.
Increase Summer Job Opportunities for Teens
Mayor Brown said he will work with JAX Chamber to recruit more businesses to provide summer employment for teens, in cooperation with a career fair being organized by the Young Leaders Advisory Council. The goal is to provide more young people with the opportunity to gain real-world work experience in the private sector and to begin preparing for future careers.
Add Neighbor Accountability Board in Arlington for First-Time Juvenile Offenders
Mayor Brown said he will seek to increase the number of first-time nonviolent juvenile offenders able to participate in the Teen Court by adding a fourth Neighborhood Accountability Board site in Arlington – supplementing those already in operation at Ribault, on the Westside and in Mayport. Based on a restorative justice model, it holds juveniles accountable for misdemeanor offenses as an alternative to arrest, detention and a criminal record.
Establish an Evening Reporting Center for Juvenile Offenders
To reduce recidivism, Mayor Brown said he will work to establish an Evening Reporting Center as a constructive alternative to detention while providing needed services, supervision and support to help juvenile offenders get back on the right track. It also keeps them from being locked up with more serious juvenile offenders. The Center is being developed with the Department of Juvenile Justice, the State Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff as partners.
Partner with Faith-Based Leaders
Mayor Brown said the City will work with local pastors and other faith leaders with the goals of: 1) expanding faith-based mentoring to young people; 2) recruiting faith leaders to serve as “pastoral interrupters,” on call to respond to crime scenes, hospitals or the homes of victims’ families to counsel against retaliatory violence; and 3) coordinating with faith leaders to preach messages with a common theme during worship services, focusing on topics such as fatherhood, respect and breaking the silence that protects wrongdoers.
Organize Neighborhood-Based Community Empowerment Days
Mayor Brown said the City will partner with private, nonprofit and faith-based organizations to coordinate half-day or full-day weekend events in high-crime neighborhoods, with the goal of connecting families with needed services. Beginning in February, the events will be hosted at participating apartment complexes – Caroline Arms, Cleveland Arms, Eureka Gardens, Hilltop Village, Roosevelt Gardens and Washington Heights, with more to be added.