Daytona Beach Police Chief Calls 6 Shootings 'Disgraceful'

Dec. 1, 2020
Six shootings in eight days have caused harm to nine people, leaving four dead and the police chief and community upset and determined to do something about it.

DAYTONA BEACH — Six shootings in eight days have caused harm to nine people, leaving four dead and the police chief and community upset and determined to do something about it.

New police Chief Jakari Young, in just his third week on the job, hosted about 200 people at the Midtown Cultural & Education Center for a two-hour meeting to share his strategy and ask for community involvement, particularly with his Citizens on Patrol program.

"This is a great city, but what I'm seeing right now is disgraceful and it must stop," Young said. "No disrespect to major cities, but this is not the South Side of Chicago. This is not Baltimore, Maryland. ... This is Daytona Beach and we have a lot of potential here in this community. We are a lot better than what I'm seeing."

The recent spate of violence has only added to the 2020 total, which is up to 44 shootings involving 58 victims. In all, shootings are up 76% from the same time in 2019. Young acknowledged the pandemic and unemployment are factors, but: "I will not use COVID as an excuse to accept violent crime and what's going on in this city."

Young announces plan

Most of the city's shootings have been in Black neighborhoods in central Daytona Beach. Young plans to target the 600, 700 and 800 blocks of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard.

This past weekend, he started an operation involving two officers patrolling the area from Mondays to Thursdays, then ramping it up to four over the weekends. He plans to keep that arrangement in place into January.

He described the approach as "proactive enforcement, traffic enforcement" and interaction with people in the neighborhood.

"That is the key. We cannot be down there just making arrests," he said.

Young is a graduate of Bethune-Cookman University, on the edge of the patrol zone, so he's intimately familiar with the neighborhood.

"I love MMB. I'm a product of Mary McLeod Bethune. I want to be able to go down there off time, T-shirt, shorts, no firearm and be able to enjoy Bethune Grill or C.J.'s or Kinfolks,' he said.

The community response and the size of the crowd, Young said, gives him hope that progress can be made, but it will take a more sustained effort than one meeting.

"We will fix this. We're going to fix this," he said.

A community reacts

The shootings have been traumatic, some residents said.

In an opening prayer, the Rev. Victor Gooden, senior pastor of New Life Church Ministries in Daytona Beach, appealed for God's help.

"Lord ... how long is this night of violence? How long is this night of death? How long is this night of vengeance?" he asked. "Lord, make it stop."

Among the residents who attended the meeting were Karen Hankerson and Rosemary Jenkins, who run the Bethune Grill, famous for its honey wings.

Hankerson said the chief's meeting was "a cry out for help," and it was important for the community to provide input.

The shootings have been weighing on Jenkins.

"We know the victims and the suspects. They actually have been our customers," Jenkins said.

"We're just tired with all of these senseless killings; it's just time for the community to come together," she said. "We're just trying to see what we can do to make a change."

She welcomes the stepped-up patrolling along the boulevard and would also like to see the city invest more into Midtown for beautification.

During the meeting, Young took suggestions and questions from audience members. Some of their ideas:

Get young people on community involvement boards or youth commissions. Put ball fields and athletic facilities to better use. Find ways to interact positively with people. "We haven't had a functioning relationship with police ever," one man told Young. The chief's response was to ask the man to stick around after the meeting so he could exchange numbers.

Another police plea: Volunteer

Some of the issues are similar to problems police face in communities across the United States. In one instance, Young is working with SMA Healthcare, which has a mobile response team and a crisis response team, to deploy these resources to calls for service that might not require a traditional police response, such as a parent calling police because a child is refusing to go to school.

Young also urged community members to consider joining the Citizens on Patrol program.

"I do not have one member of the Midtown community, Derbyshire community, the Black community in general that is a part of that program and that's a problem for me," he said. "But then, when the mayor announced, 'Hey, we're gonna put together a Citizens Review Board for the police department,' I got over 50 applications. What does that tell you? Everybody wants to hold the police accountable but nobody wants to help the police hold the community accountable. And that's got to change."

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Daytona Beach police chief calls spate of 6 shootings 'disgraceful'


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