Defoor hosts virtual town hall on crime, drainage woes

Defoor hosts virtual town hall on crime, drainage woes
Flooding after heavy late afternoon rainfall Sept. 16 in the Fishweir Creek neighborhood.

Community policing and shared intelligence keys to mitigating criminal activity

Jacksonville City Councilwoman Randy Defoor hosted a virtual town hall meeting with a few dozen constituents on September 9 to discuss two timely neighborhood concerns, recent crime trends and flooding during storm season.

“We have a lot of heavy issues to discuss this time,” said Ms. Defoor to open the discussion on Zoom with Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) Assistant Chief Dan Shelton of the local Zone 4, who reviewed neighborhood crime statistics showing most types of crime have been down this year with two exceptions: vehicle burglaries and homicides are up in 2021.

There have been two homicides on different blocks of Myra Street six blocks apart, on the 2700 and 3000 blocks, this year compared to zero in the zone last year and one in 2019, according to JSO’s internal statistics.

“One is too many, obviously,” said the officer.

He and Councilwoman Defoor cautioned residents against confronting vehicle burglars, as such an encounter led to the most recent death in Zone 4. The suspected shooter turned himself in, largely thanks to residents’ cooperation and the sharing of security video with police, Mr. Shelton said.

“If you see someone break in your car, call the police. Don’t confront burglars,” Ms. Defoor advised.

Mr. Shelton said catalytic converter thefts from vehicle exteriors have become common-place as well as firearm thefts from inside vehicles, usually unlocked, as well as unlocked homes and apartments. The converters can be sold out of state for $1000 apiece but cost at least $1500 to replace and the guns are used to commit other crimes, like armed robberies of businesses, bar patrons after closing and drug dealers known to have cash, drugs and guns on hand.

The assistant chief urged residents to store valuables, particularly electronics like laptop computers, cameras and tablets, but also weapons, in their homes or locked inside their trunks rather than inside vehicle cabs. He recommends checking all locks every evening at 9 p.m., too.

“Any support, we’d greatly appreciate that,” requested Mr. Shelton.

While vehicle burglars will roam streets in the early morning hours lifting vehicle door handles to test for unlocked targets, it’s rare they break into locked vehicles when no valuables are present.

“We’re not seeing them run down Dellwood breaking windows,” said Mr. Shelton, but expensive items like rifles and laptops can entice criminals to smash-and-grab.

“There’s not a lot of money to be gained,” said Mr. Shelton. “It’s to fuel their drugs. A lot of it revolves around drugs.”

Armed robberies have also been reported after the 2 a.m. closing time near the bars on King Street. Inebriated patrons are easy targets, he said.

Millions of dollars coming from city, Army Corps for waterway projects

The City of Jacksonville plans to spend $1 million to improve drainage and reduce flooding west of Riverside High School and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is close to spending much more, at least $5 million, to dredge and restore Big Fishweir Creek and remove sediment from Little Fishweir Creek with the city adding millions more.

Work is also being planned for improvements of the Willow Branch Creek canal seawall, city Chief of Engineering and Construction Management Robin Smith said.

All came up during the recent virtual town hall meeting during the flooding discussion that also featured a flood mitigation expert from Louisiana, still reeling from impacts of the recent Hurricane Ida.

Homeowners in flood-prone areas essentially have three choices: pay flood insurance rates rising by double digits year after year, elevate existing structures or rebuild them at higher floor elevations after they’ve been flooded.

All are expensive but also necessary to ensure historic homes withstand more flooding expected in the future due to rising temperatures and sea levels, and the major challenge is financing such projects in conjunction with federal government financial assistance as state aid for flood mitigation is minimal in Florida, which has the fourth-highest National Flood Insurance Program loss claims in the country. Less than one-third of properties in flood zones have insurance coverage statewide.

“It takes a team to get resilient,” said Roderick Scott of L&R Resources, LLC. “You have to do the infrastructure and elevate the buildings. The water’s here and more is coming.”

As such, Riverside Avondale Preservation (RAP) is seeking members to serve on its new flooding, drainage and resiliency committee. Visit to learn more about RAP and get involved.

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