Proctor points to racial inequities as reason for high crime rate
County commissioner also calls on mayor to suspend campaign for governor
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Citing inequities in his predominantly Black district among the reasons for a recent spurt of shootings, county Commissioner Bill Proctor defended his call for Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency in Tallahassee.
At the same time, Proctor called for mayor Andrew Gillum to suspend his campaign for governor for at least a month to deal with the rising crime rate in the city. Responses from Scott and Gillum indicated that they will not give the commission his request, which he outlined during a press conference last week.
Proctor said after seeing statistics on crime in his district during a workshop a week earlier, he decided to stage his press conference. He said the crimes are occurring in areas where incomes are low, unemployment is high, drugs is easily available and a mental health crisis exists.
“I want our governor and the mayor to stand up and see what I see,” Proctor said. “People are fearful, afraid. Everybody is just run over with fear; uncertainty.”
Proctor said he was asking Scott for a state of emergency, as he did in Gainesville a week before white nationalist Richard Spencer was scheduled to appear at the University of Florida.
“I’m asking for all the great minds to come together to pen solutions,” he said. “If we don’t; we are running the risk of losing community’s reputation, name and honor to the extent that people won’t send their children to our college (and) universities.”
Even before the recent workshop, Proctor said, he knew that most crimes have been committed in areas where dealing with inequities is a daily occurrence.
“I don’t like to talk about this stuff, but it occurs more in my district,” Proctor said. “I’m these people’s commissioner.”
During recent weeks, incidents involving guns have been on the rise. At least one was linked to gangs. In all, six people were hospitalized while two recent cases were ruled homicides by law enforcement.
Another shooting was reported by Tallahassee Police Department on Monday. It took place Sunday night with the victim showing up at McDonald’s on South Monroe Street and was later hospitalized.
The cases could likely make Tallahassee the leader in violent crimes for a fourth consecutive year. The city has already recorded 18 homicides this year.
That has created a frantic effort to curb the city’s crime rate. But Scott and Gillum didn’t express any willingness to take Proctor up on his propositions.
“This is a time for serious ideas from committed people who want to work toward a solution,” Gillum said in a prepared statement.
As part of his response to Proctor, the mayor offered his latest proposal for fighting crime. He has called for activation of the Emergency Operations Center to jointly coordinate the city and county law enforcement agencies as part of his strategy.
However, Sheriff Walt McNeil said that the same thing could be done by either of both law enforcement agencies in Tallahassee. The EOC currently serves at the response center in times of natural disasters.
Issuing a state of emergency is also out of the question, the governor said in a statement through his press office.
“The Governor is hopeful that local elected officials can work together to keep their communities safe,” the statement read. “The state provides support to local law enforcement agencies through communications resources, investigative support from state law enforcement and the court system, as well as grants from the state legal affairs office.
“Our office works with law enforcement agencies to provide them the tools they need to keep Floridians safe.”