We are in the final days of the back-to-school season here in Jacksonville. As my fellow parents know, these weeks can be a blur of chaos, relief, newfound worry, and pure joy. As a father of three, I have been around the block when it comes to navigating back to school.
I have taken those experiences to heart as I continue to serve our community and the families that call Jacksonville home.
While back to school can be a time for relief among parents, recent years have brought with them new worries for the safety of our students. Together, we have had to mourn too many children lost to senseless violence. I am not immune to this. Each school year, I am forced to reckon with putting my children in the care of others and trust that they will be looked after and protected in the face of disaster.
That is why, as Mayor, I believe in putting our children’s safety and success first, both inside the classroom and outside in the community. Since taking office, my administration has implemented a series of policies that have been put in place to reduce crime and violence throughout our community. I continue to invest record amounts in equipping our schools and educators with the tools and resources they need to meet the challenges of the day.
Our Duval County Public School system consistently evaluates, plans, and responds to threats against our children. While they are separate from the office of mayor, my administration is committed to supporting their mission of serving our youth and I am proud to say that we have been able to walk arm in arm over the years, enacting policies, securing funding, and bringing in new technology to ensure our students feel safe.
Just earlier this year, my administration secured the partnership of ARMOURED ONE, a security company formed in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, to conduct risk assessments and provide active shooter training and equipment to educators and staff.
The safety of our students cannot be ensured without working to reduce crime throughout our community. That is why my administration has consistently worked to fund our first responders and invest in new crime fighting technologies. This year’s budget included an additional 37.5 million dollars into the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. This investment includes additional funding for projects like Shot-Spotter technology, which help law enforcement better identify and respond to gun violence in our community.
My administration also adopted the International Community Violence Intervention Strategy, commonly referred to as Cure Violence. This strategy takes a wholistic approach to community violence, including intervention and outreach components. Trained outreach workers, sourced from the community, go out and build relationships, give hope, and intervene in the cycle of violence and crime.
We are far from over in the fight to completely end violence in our community. However, the city, our schools, and our community partners are working tirelessly to ensure that schools remain the safest place for our children to be. My administration continues to set the stage for future leaders to grow our school and community safety programs, and ensure Jacksonville remains a safe place for every citizen.