On Thursday, August 24, the Gainesville Police Department announced they were launching a gun violence prevention initiative. The news release reads as follows.
“The Gainesville Police Department shares its concerns with the community regarding the significant increase in violence (homicides, shootings, and gun-related crimes) within the City of Gainesville. We are committed to combating the harm or fear of harm to our neighbors as a result of gun violence.
The Gainesville Police Department will deploy agency resources while working with the community and other agencies to ensure all neighbors feel safe in our city. Our goal is to identify individuals with a high propensity for committing gun-related violence or those who may be at risk of becoming victims of said and, ultimately to, reduce incidents of gun violence. This will be accomplished through thorough data collection and analysis, which will result in precise, intelligence-driven policing tactics. Included in these tactics will be selective enforcement and intervention practices, all aimed at reducing gun violence. Additionally, members of the initiative will contact various neighbors in the identified areas to educate them of our efforts and solicit feedback.
The goal of this initiative is to reduce incidents of gun-related violence in the City of Gainesville. GPD urges our neighbors to report all instances of gun violence and proposed violence observed on social media. We encourage anyone who is being victimized to report it to law enforcement by calling “911” or calling Lt. J. Robinson at 352-642-5823. To seek program services assistance from the Alachua County Victim Services, please call 352-264-6760.”
The initiative comes after a sharp increase in shootings around Gainesville over the summer months, with many occurring within walking distance of the University of Florida’s campus. Some Gainesville citizens believe this initiative will not do enough to address the problem of gun violence.
Kayleigh Ratliff has been living in Gainesville for ten years and works as a clinical research coordinator at UF Health. She believes terms in the news release like “selective enforcement” and “high propensity” will result in more cases of racial profiling than actual solutions. As a mother of a young son, she believes educating the youth can be an effective solution. She also called out the recent gun buybacks hosted by GPD, stating it will not help fix the systematic problems of gun violence.
“I see this as an issue because we as a society have seen what usually comes along with police profiling. Certain populations and ethnic groups are targeted and there are few to stand up for these groups. We must not allow racial profiling in Gainesville. There are better ways to stop gun violence. I believe we as a society must start educating the younger generations more on ethics and morals. GPD can try to take away guns all they like but educating people to be kind and not act on impulse is ultimately going to eliminate this issue at the systemic level. As a mother, I would like to feel safe when dropping my son off at school or going out in public, but I do not think police profiling is the answer here. We must do better, and it starts with educating our children.”
Shay Sigman has been living in Gainesville for over ten years and believes that the initiative will not have a positive effect on the Gainesville community. He pointed out that no departments were named in the news release, and also criticized it for the open-endedness of its wording, believing it may lead to more problems than solutions.
“My first thought is that a lot of this wordage is too open-ended. They’re talking about ‘resource officers’ and ‘agencies’ but they’re not naming any departments. They’re trying to ‘identify individuals with a high propensity for committing gun-related violence and those who would be at risk to it through data collection and analysis.’ That seems very frightening to me in today's digital world where we have very little digital privacy to begin with. ‘Selective enforcement.’ ‘Intervention practices.’ All of these things are incredibly vague and open-ended. I don’t take things at face value especially when it comes from community leaders or police. All of this sounds like an easy way to increase outreach and the ability to police heavier.
Maybe we need that considering how bad the gun violence has gotten. I’ve been in a shooting before when I worked at Mother’s down the street. We got stuck there after it closed at around 2:00 am. The crowd from the kava place next door usually had block parties at the Chevron. We heard gunshots there right across the street from us. We were stuck till 6:30 am waiting for the next shift to open up. We could’ve gotten in trouble for being in a bar after closing but we're not going outside while cops are running around and there are gunshots going off.
The problem of gun violence is a big deal, however, vague wordage and open-ended enforcement doesn't seem like the right way to go about it."