Organizers hope Crime Prevention and Health Community Day brings change

FSU professor Sally Karioth (right) prepares a visitor for a blood pressure check.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

For the past few months the Tallahassee Urban League has been hosting forums with law enforcement, listening to ideas that anyone brings about how to solve crime in the city.

Health-care disparities sometimes seeped into the conversation. 

Both were the focus last Saturday when the Urban League staged a Crime Prevention and Health Community Day event at LeVerne Payne Community Center in Frenchtown.

The event was one of the first proactive steps taken to bring about change, said Curtis Taylor, president of the local Urban League.

“We are all out here trying to bring about a difference,” Taylor said, “trying to do everything we can do to let our citizens know ‘you play an important role in combating crime in our community.’ ”

Throughout the four-hour events, a few dressed-down law enforcement officers mingled with folks who showed up. The Bethel Mobile Health unit was among the vendors that provided healthcare information or offered free COVID-19 information, screening and blood pressure checks.

However, the emphasis was on eliminating the antagonistic relationships that residents tend to have with law enforcement. Making a case for that, Taylor noted that there have been more than 65 shootings since January.

Argatha Gilmore, an assistant Leon County Sheriff, expressed appreciation for the intent of the event.

Being able to interact one-on-one with attendees should result in outcomes that improve the relationship between law enforcement and the community, said Gilmore, a veteran officer. 

“If you know my name you will be better positioned to trust me with your circumstance and the situations in your life,” Gilmore said. “No matter how small it is we welcome that so that we are able to better relate and have a common goal that we are both citizens trying to make our community better.”

Gilmore mentioned that the Sheriff Department has several initiatives to do just that, including Back on Track. That is a diversion program to help at-risk young people.

She suggested that efforts — such as last Saturday’s event — to meet individuals in a casual setting should be ongoing.

“We can’t do it enough,” Gilmore said. “We need to do it more and at the same time to be responsive to the concerns and problems that you have.”

Officers from the Tallahassee Fire Department and Tallahassee Police Department also interacted with residents.

One of the busiest groups was represented by students from the FAMU nursing program. They were supervised by Sally Karioth, a FSU professor who teaches inequities in healthcare and grief loss.

In between doing blood pressure checks, she meticulously explained to the students what to look for, including ailment people being screened might be dealing with and their medication schedule. 

“All of those things are important for all health-care providers to know; what our client looks like as we begin to deliver care.”

She also acknowledged that inequity in healthcare is one of the major issues that residents of predominantly Black neighborhoods face.

“We all know that there are health inequities that exist,” Karioth said. “Regardless how we were raised, it’s the poor who are mostly as risk. Even in this one-to-one with patients as they walk in.”

Although the event attracted mostly residents of Frenchtown, Kenny Barber, a resident and community leaders, suggested that similar events should be held in other Black neighborhoods. Doing so could lead to the kinds of outcome that organizers are expecting, he said.

That much was obvious Saturday by the way attendees were engaged.

“They will visit all the vendors, listen to the speakers and they will approach each of the people who have influence or authority and voice their concerns or their personal requests,” Barber said. “Some of them will follow up with phone calls.

“If you could help one person through events like this it could be considered successful.”

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