1200 Weimer Hall | P.O. Box 118405
Gainesville, FL 32611
(352) 392-5551

A service of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida.

© 2024 WUFT / Division of Media Properties
News and Public Media for North Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Palatka Commissioner holds forum addressing high rates of violent crime

A Palatka Police Department vehicle parked outside the public forum. (Richard Bennett/WUFT News)
A Palatka Police Department vehicle parked outside the public forum. (Richard Bennett/WUFT News)

Community and youth outreach programs were at the forefront of a public forum addressing the high violent crime rate in Palatka.

On Saturday, Palatka City Commissioner Tammie McCaskill held the meeting.

Several solutions were proposed aimed at youth programs because most of the violent crime in Palatka comes from the teenage demographic in the area, according to Palatka Police Department’s Chief of Police, Jason L. Shaw.

“For leadership to join us hand in hand and help us reach out to the community and get ahold of this pandemic. It's enormous,” Shaw said. “What we find in our tactics, whether it be law enforcement or community-wide, is we have to be able to address the children.”

McCaskill suggested more accountability and ownership for violent crime to help reform.

“What I want to see happen is more folks taking ownership and more families of victims taking ownership,” McCaskill said. “I think that's one of the hardest things there is.”

While Palatka is small, with a population of roughly 10,000, the violent crime rate is anything but, with a violent crime rate sitting at 577.8 per 100,000 residents as of September, making it the third highest violent crime rate in Florida only preceded by Jacksonville and Miami, according to data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“We're a smaller community. We have a smaller amount of incidents,” Shaw said. “But for us per capita, it's what we call appalling and what we look to address.”

However, the violent crime rate has fallen by about 35 percent since 2022, showing that policies to increase youth outreach and community outreach have impacted curbing violence.

“Continue to move forward,” McCaskill said. “That's how to break down those barriers and begin to literally, ‘Stop the violence,’ and have kids take an alternate route.”

Stopping the violence in Palatka means nipping it in the bud where it's happening in the community — the youth.

The issue is close to McCaskill’s heart, as she lost her brother to gun violence, her sister to domestic violence, and her son in a fight.

After McCaskill’s son’s death, she went on to reach out to his killer and make amends with him.

“I own the fight that my son was part of. I hate that it happened, but you know what? I still love your family. I still forgive you. I still love you,” McCaskill said. “What can we do to change this so that we can help other families not experience what we've experienced?”

Richard is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.