Council looks at lower crime rates, reschedules Memorial Day event

By Kile Brewer
Posted 6/6/18

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – After reluctantly cancelling the city’s RiverFest celebration on Memorial Day due to the impending threat of severe weather, Green Cove Springs City Manager Danielle Judd …

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Council looks at lower crime rates, reschedules Memorial Day event

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – After reluctantly cancelling the city’s RiverFest celebration on Memorial Day due to the impending threat of severe weather, Green Cove Springs City Manager Danielle Judd made it a priority to set a makeup date at Tuesday’s meeting.

With a wave of feedback after the call was made about the May 28 cancellation of the Sring Park event, city staff began brainstorming ways to make it up, specifically with some kind of ceremony that will honor veterans.

“We realize the significance of this event in the community,” Judd said. “I think we need to do something for our veterans.”

Vendors from RiverFest have been repaid, but the fireworks that were scheduled for last Monday’s event needed to be rescheduled to another day, with the exception of July Fourth when the fireworks vendor has a prior engagement.

Council member Van Royal, whose wife Sandra Royal heads up the CalaVida Arts Festival, laughed as he suggested CalaVida as an alternate date for the fireworks. Judd and the council were not surprised at his support of CalaVida, but all seemed to agree that this would be the perfect time for the rescheduled fireworks display.

“I think it would be a great idea to use the fireworks for CalaVida and make it a really big thing for vendors,” Lewis said. “That’s something we really need to push.”

Others agreed and it was determined that fireworks would be a good addition to the annual arts festival held in Spring Park every October, and offered some added effect to the live band at the CalaVida reception dinner.

After the fireworks had been decided on, council and staff moved on to deciding what they would do to make it up to their veterans. Residents suggested dates such as July Fourth and Labor Day on the city’s Facebook page and through emails, but with those events not centering around veterans and all the other activity on the Fourth, they decided those would not work.

Eventually discussion resulted in unanimous support for holding the event around Veteran’s Day, with Van Royal suggesting the event be held on the Saturday prior, November 10, starting around 10 a.m. with a ceremony to honor veterans to be followed by a free barbecue for the veterans and their families.

In other business, the council voted 4-0 unanimously, with the absence of council member Mitch Timberlake, to approve an Interlocal Agreement between the city and the Clay County School District for the city to receive $143,534 from the school board for providing school resource officers at Charles E. Bennett Elementary School and Green Cove Springs Junior High School.

Police Chief Derek Asdot said the officers, Nicholas Rulon and Brett Morando, will be moved from their current positions which will be filled with two new full-time employees.

“We asked who wanted to be in the schools because we wanted the right people in there, and honestly those are the two I would’ve picked anyway,” Asdot said. “They’re great people who are going to do great things and further those relationships [with the schools].”

Asdot said the department had already begun the interview process for the new hires in anticipation of the reassignments of Rulon and Morando.

“We’re in a very good position, we’re really in uncharted waters,” Asdot said. “We have so many applications coming in from other agencies, when it used to be that we were losing [officers] to these other agencies. That’s not the case anymore.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Judd asked Asdot to return to the podium with the results they had received from its annual year-end Uniformed Crime Reports for the 2017 calendar year, a study prepared by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“Our total crime index is down, the lowest we’ve ever recorded in Green Cove Springs,” Asdot said. “We’ve really embraced, not just doing our jobs, being out there and being visible, but the follow-ups.”

The statistics show crime is down, not just in Green Cove Springs but across Clay County. However, the numbers also lean in the favor of the Green Cove Springs Police Department with its total crime hovering around a 25 percent reduction – almost five times that of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office who recorded a 5.4 percent reduction. The Orange Park Police Department’s numbers also reflected a great reduction in total crime at 37.6 percent.

The number representing clearance rate of crimes, basically whether or not the department catches those responsible, was more even between the departments, but Green Cove came out on top. They recorded a 44.4 percent clearance rate compared to 40.4 percent in Orange Park and 32.7 percent at the Sheriff’s Office. This is something Asdot was particularly proud of with investigations being a major focus for the department once he took over as chief.

“Clay County has very good law enforcement agencies and we’re leading [the clearance rate statistic] by a significant margin,” Asdot said. “As you know I come from a heavy investigative background, that was one of the first things I did when I came in, was I changed how we’re doing investigations.”

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