The Gainesville Police Department met with the Moms Demand Action Gainesville chapter Monday evening to address the increase in gun crime in the city.
Detective Joseph Castor and Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones sat down with the organization at the Alachua County Library Headquarters branch to present recent crime statistics and discuss potential solutions.
“We’re not Jacksonville, we’re not Miami, we’re not Detroit,” Castor told the group. “But as a community, we need to come together.”
According to GPD, as of June 23, there have been 32 reported cases of shots fired. Many of them were homicides, robberies, aggravated assault and aggravated battery.
Castor said a key factor in the high crime rate is attributed to stolen guns. GPD reports in this year alone, 17 guns have been reported stolen from unlocked vehicles, which does not include unreported cases.
Jones said GPD is putting together a media campaign to remind gun owners to safely secure their firearms if they will be kept inside a vehicle.
But law enforcement is only one part of the solution, said Lindsey Hoffman, data lead for the Gainesville chapter of Moms Demand Action.
“We as a community want to know how we can help,” Hoffman said during the presentation.
Earlier in the day, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement released its Annual Uniform Crime Report, and Alachua County reported a notable exception to a statewide drop in crime rates. The total number of crimes increased from 2017 to 2018 by 8 percent, and law enforcement agencies investigated 14 murders. That’s the highest total in the county since at least 2000, according to FDLE data.
Jones said the best way the community can help is by coming forward to law enforcement.
“If you see someone brandishing a gun, someone needs to pick up a phone and call us,” he said. “Because if you don’t, it’s going to continue.”
Some citizens attending the meeting voiced concerns, saying fears of retaliation and possible consequences prevent people from reaching out to law enforcement with information.
Castor said there are measures that are taken to ensure that people remain confidential sources, such as anonymous reporting and having court documents sealed.
But attendees, such as Tyra “Ty Loudd” Edwards, 49, said there should be other factors in stopping crime.
“You can put 150 policemen in that neighborhood, but if someone is desperate to do it, they will do it,” Edwards said.
A frequent activist for helping marginalized communities and reducing violent crime in Gainesville, she said a practical solution would be for GPD to partner with other agencies and grassroot groups.
Others suggested creating more mentoring groups and opportunities for police to build trust by establishing positive relationships in the community.
One Moms Demand Action volunteer, Bob Hallman, 86, has been to Tallahassee twice with the organization to speak with representatives. Aside from law enforcement, Hallman said elected officials are just as important in helping stop violent crime.
“We can stand here and scream and holler and say all kinds of stuff,” he said. “But if you don’t get your elected officials on your side, it doesn’t matter.”
Jones said that there is no one answer to solving gun crimes, but the community must come together and collaborate for a strategy.
Hoffman ended the meeting by reminding everyone that activism takes time and perseverance.
“The mantra in this work is that it’s a marathon and not a sprint,” she said. “But every month we make incremental movements and that’s change in itself.”