Nov. 13 town hall seeks solutions to crime

By Dorothy Inman-Johnson
Special to the Outlook

In 2016, the total crime rate for Florida dropped by 4.4 percent while crime increased 6.8 percent  per 100,000 residents in Tallahassee/ Leon County, according to 2016 crime data released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) earlier this year. Leon County topped the list of the 10 Florida counties with the highest crime rates, including Florida’s two  largest counties, Duval and Miami-Dade, for the third year in a row. The same report showed Leon County ranked at the top in violent crimes_ murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault_ for counties with populations above 50,000; though its violent crime rate fell overall by 11 percent. During the same period, the violent crime rate fell 3.5 percent in Florida. Could it be that Tallahassee/ Leon County is just doing a better job of reporting crime data than other counties? Or is this a problem requiring a more comprehensive, county-wide focus? Who is responsible for the implementation of the plan?

These questions and much more will be discussed at a TOWN HALL Meeting, “Real Solutions for Confronting Crime”, on Monday, November 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bethel Family Life Center at 406 North Bronough Street. The Town Hall will summarize the problem, but focus on strategies to reduce crime that include innovative approaches that have proven effective in communities nationwide, and some targeted strategies already underway in Frenchtown and Southside neighborhoods. However, the Town Hall will concentrate on countywide solutions to the high crime rate, recognizing that the crime problem is not contained within a few neighborhoods. The photographs posted on line of persons arrested for crimes are both Black and White, from a wide range of socio-ecomomic levels, and reside in neighborhoods throughout Leon County.

An excellent panel has been assembled to lead the discussion that includes top law enforcement at the county, city, and university levels, community experts on drugs/ opioids, juvenile crime, mental health, and re-entry programs for ex-offenders. An equally knowledgeable panel includes a religious, neighborhood, and business leader, and an ex-offender advocate poised to respond to the impact of crime on safety, the quality of our lives, and our community’s standing as one of the nation’s 100 Most Livable Cities in 2014 out of over 20,000 cities, and twice selected among the 10 U.S. All-America Cities. Tallahassee’s high crime rate is a major factor in losing our place among the nation’s 100 Most Livable Cities. The panelists will focus more keenly on strategies from their unique perspectives and expertise for creating a safer community.
Most important, however, this is an opportunity for residents throughout the county to come together and share their thoughts on a plan to reduce crime. Crime is not confined to neighborhood boundaries; and, therefore, the solutions must be comprehensive, holistic, and countywide. Strategies must address prevention, and intervention, as well as incarceration and rehabilitation while locked up and in preparation for release. The public is invited to come out and join the discussion.

There has been much talk about the problem and a lot of finger pointing ascribing blame. That gets us nowhere. There are, also, many well intentioned community engagement efforts ongoing in Tallahassee. They include The Longest Table, Village Square, and the Southside crime task force’s neighborhood walks. An important piece that is missing in most of those outreach efforts, however, is an understanding of the problem from the perspective of victims, the offenders, and the broader community negatively impacted by the high rate of violent crime. There may be tried and true strategies from the past that require another look, as well as newer approaches. It’s past time to give priority attention to reclaiming our title as a “family friendly”, safe city.

The Nov. 13, Town Hall provides an opportunity for Tallahassee and Leon County residents to come together to deal with the problem by helping to create a community-wide plan for a safer community. Join your neighbors and add your voice in planning “Real Solutions for Confronting Crime”.

The TOWN HALL is being hosted by Live Communications, Inc., the parent company for the Capital Outlook Newspaper, WTAL 1450 AM Radio, and WOCY 106.5 FM Radio  broadcasting in coastal counties in Florida’s Big Bend.
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