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Weekend Shootings Spur 'Operation Safe Neighborhoods'

Mayor Andrew Gillum (center) with City Commissioner Nancy Miller (left), City Manager Anita Favors-Thompson (right) and City Commissioner Curis Richardson (far left), Leon Sheriff mike Wood and Deputy Police Chief Darrell Furuseth talk crime in Tallahasse

City of Tallahassee leaders are unveiling Operation Safe Neighborhoods, a summer initiative to curb gun violence in the city. The move comes after three shootings this past weekend left one man dead and two minors injured.

The shooting death of a Frenchtown man has become the sixth homicide in Tallahassee this year. And police think his death is related to two others that also occurred Saturday evening. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Deputy Police Chief Darrell Furusethsays the shootings are still under investigation.

“We know there’s a gang nexus to this. The motivation may or may not be gang-related as far as the motive there, but we know there are members involved in this investigation who are gang members.”

The shootings occurred within hours of each other, and local pastors and other city officials say enough is enough. Tuesday, the city unveiled a plan to increase policing in the Frenchtown and Southside Neighborhoods and expand the operating hours for city recreation centers. City Manager Anita Favors-Thompson says the idea is to create safer spaces for kids.

“We don’t want to have a community where children are afraid to come out and enjoy the amenities we have. So we’re going to be doing the swimming, free movie nights at Cascades Park, we’re going to be doing intramural basketball league for community centers, class offerings for teens during weeknights for teens at the community cents, and even night disk-golf,"  she said.

Mayor Andrew Gillum and Favors Thompson say they plan to open up 15 new police officer positions—granting TPD’s request for more officers. But Gillum says he’s not sure where the money will come from. The city currently has a budget hole for the upcoming fiscal year.

“The truth is we are still working through how we will piece this all together. What we know for certain is that we have a situation that requires some extra-ordinary actions by the city government," he said.

TPD will also deploy a mobile command center in the neighborhoods, and Saturday between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. citizen-based groups will go door-to-door to speak with neighborhood residents. Still, the idea of increased police patrols may make some residents leery given last year’s tazing of a woman on Dunn Street, and national about officer-involved shootings.  It’s sentiment City Commissioner Curtis Richardson alludes to.

“We’ve got to show the same kind of outrage when we perpetrate crimes against each other, as what happens when a rogue cop goes too far. We have to show that same kind of outrage and be involved in making sure the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Richardson says the community-policing approach has worked in at least one other neighborhood, Wilson Green.

Through a partnership with the Tallahassee police chief they’ve seen a precipitous decrease in crime and criminal activity, particularly by young people, in their neighborhood," he said. One of the shootings occurred off Ridge Road, near the neighborhood.

The city hopes to replicate that model in other neighborhoods. In 2013 there were 13 murders in Leon County. Last year, there were 14, and there have been six homicides so far this year.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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