Leon Sheriff Walt McNeil asks the school board to help fund a new council to address gun violence
As Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil continues efforts to understand and address local gun violence, he’s turning to the district’s school board for funding. McNeil is assembling a new council for men and boys that he hopes will become a tool in addressing the social and economic problems underlying local shootings.
Most of the gun violence locally is focused on Black men and boys between the ages of 15 and 24. They’re often the victims and perpetrators of the crimes and are likely to also know each other. McNeil is asking the Leon School Board to put $70,000 toward his effort to create a council on men and boys. During a recent school board meeting, he also noted the majority of the offenders, some 85% of them, had been expelled or placed in an alternative school.
"That informed us that we need to try to find the space with respect to these students or persons, with which we can have interventions," he said.
That funding, said McNeil, would allow the council to hire an executive director, along with two, part-time clinicians and other part-time staff.
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The city and county have already agreed to put $280,000 toward the new council which would provide case management and services to the people it identifies as being at-risk for committing a crime.
Leon County and the City of Tallahassee have a long-standing commission on the status of women and girls which provides policy recommendations. That group receives about $40,000 a year in local government money and is housed under the Oasis Center for women and girls. The Oasis Center also receives city and county funding.
The Leon County Commission is considering increasing funding to the women and girls group.
The focus on the new Black men and boys council has caused both local government bodies to consider increasing funding to the commission on women and girls.
The school board is likely to approve McNeil’s request at its next meeting.
The Leon County Jail is about 80%full following a years-long increase in murder cases. The area's increase in gun violence mirrors national trends.