By Cindy Swirko The Gainesville Sun, Fla.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Any shooter who puts a Gainesville school under attack will be met with force from a school resource officer, Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones said Tuesday night.
His vow came at an open house for residents that included a review of the agency’s crime and activities in 2017, and that laid out its goals for 2018 including the creation of a new strategic plan to be rolled out in 2019.
“We will engage the threat without waiting for backup. We are not going to set up a perimeter,” Jones said, adding he told officers, “You are going to impact the threat — that’s what I expect you to do. Everybody understands that. Everybody knows.”
GPD has resource officers at city elementary, middle and high schools.
Jones’ statement came with the Feb. 14 killing of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County still fresh in everyone’s mind.
A Stoneman Douglas resource deputy was criticized, and eventually resigned, for staying outside a campus building while the shooting by a former student was happening.
The open house at Gainesville High School drew about 20 residents. GPD periodically hold public forums but this is the first in some time.
GPD reported mixed results on crime in 2017 — violent crime increased by 8.4 percent in 2017 while property crime dipped.
Increases in the number of sexual batteries and aggravated assaults fueled the increase in violent crime.
In 2016, for instance, 142 sexual batteries were reported. It climbed to 162 in 2017. Jones said the jump is due to increased reporting, which the department has been encouraging.
The number of robberies, which has grown in recent years, dipped to 176 in 2017 from 189 in 2016.
Property crimes including theft and burglary dropped 3.6 percent. GPD data showed that many of the thefts occurred when car doors were left unlocked.
The rate at which GPD solved cases was higher than the national average.
Capt. Jamie Kurnick, speaking to residents of a policing district after the main meeting, said GPD takes that seriously.
“It hurts our feelings when we don’t solve something,” she said. “We take it personally.”
An initiative started in 2012 to reduce GPD’s disproportionate contacts with minority youth continued to reduce the arrest of black kids in 2017.
Among the events to which GPD responded heavily in 2017 were Hurricane Irma and the October speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida.
The strategic plan that will be created this year will be the first for GPD. It is intended to guide the department toward maximum efficiency and impact, and will be created with input from the public along with GPD employees.
“We really want to hear from citizens,” Jones said. “I’m always looking at how we can be more efficient.”
Goals for 2018 include continuing to solve and prevent crime, provide leadership training for staff, hire a grant manager to bring in more money and start transitioning the patrol cruiser fleet from Dodge Chargers to Ford Interceptor SUVs.
©2018 The Gainesville Sun, Fla.