“Bridging the Gap” is the theme of a two-day crime prevention summit that got underway Wednesday at downtown Pensacola's Crown Plaza Hotel.
Delorean Wiggins, a deputy with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, is the chief organizer of the summit, which features crime prevention experts, community leaders and policy makers seeking ways to reduce crime.
“We can’t do it alone,” said Wiggins. “A lot of people want to depend on law enforcement. We can get out and do the job, but actually if we have the eyes and ears in the community to relay information back to us, it helps us to solve some of the unsolved homicides as well as some of the break-ins that are going on in the community.”
A number of local officials greeted the crowd with their opening remarks. State Attorney Bill Eddins talked about some of the positive changes – such as beginning with an 11% decline in crime in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period last year, according to the ECSO.
“Why? We don’t know for sure,” Eddins said. “However, we know that under the Sheriff’s reign, the neighborhood watch groups have skyrocketed – from 13 to 127 in the past five years. And we hope that conferences such as this will cause it to continue to do so.”
For Escambia School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas, changes will not come overnight, nor will they come in giant leaps and bounds. Rather he says, it’s the little things that need to add up. Thomas says one prime example of community and government working together on crime was driven home a year ago, with the shooting death of 14-year-old Kenteyonna Anderson.
“When that Pensacola High School cheerleader was struck down, she was doing absolutely nothing wrong,’ Thomas said. “But when that bullet was fired, and it found her heart: there’s a mother, there are relatives that are still mourning to this day.”
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan, who hosted the summit, told the crowd that while growing up during the Cold War, he never feared a nuclear attack. But today he does fear losing the country from within.
“There’s a corollary here, ladies and gentlemen, with our community,” Morgan said. “If you’re not standing up in your community with your pastors and with law enforcement, and setting a standard in your community (of) what is acceptable and unacceptable, we’re being destroyed from within. You know, the evil one’s greatest tool is divisiveness; I don’t have to be in your face, I just have to sow a seed of doubt.”
After the summit ends on Thursday, organizer Delorean Wiggins says it’s on to the next step in the process – including a town hall meeting.
Other speakers Wednesday included rapper Shawn Jaxsun, Major Craig McQueen of the Miami Police Department, and Dr. Richard Hough from UWF’s Criminal Justice Department. Thursday’s session begins at 8:00 a.m. with Randolph Lewis of Lewis Maxwell Training Consultants; Paul Wallis with the Department of Juvenile Justice, Pastor Rodney Jones of New World Believers, and Pensacola Police Captain David Alexander.