Residents' mission to keep beach safe

By Vic Micolucci, General assignment reporter, vic@wjxt.com
Published On: May 30 2013 06:17:36 AM EDT
Updated On: May 30 2013 08:39:24 PM EDT

A week after a massive brawl broke out at Jacksonville Beach, residents say they're fed up with the violence. They've decided to hold a peaceful discussion about things they can do to make the city safer.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. -

People who live in Jacksonville Beach are vowing to take back their community after several fights nearly shut down the beach during the Memorial Day holiday.

Police are adding extra patrols in the area, but neighbors are questioning if that's good enough.

"It's supposed to be a nice little comfort cozy zone, a nice moneymaker. We all hang out at the beach and we need to take the beach back," said John Harpersberger, who works at a Jacksonville Beach restaurant.

Taking the beach back is exactly what many Jacksonville Beach residents say they're going to do. There's even T-shirts being made and sold online. The site says all proceeds will go to the city of Jacksonville Beach to keep the city safe and clean.

"Just put Take Back Jax Beach over it to basically put the message out there to keep our beach safe and clean," clothing designer Mark Braddock said.

He said the money raised will go to city programs, but the point is to raise awareness and push for better behavior.

The campaign was spawned by people who say they're fed up with the violence and large crowds that gather at Jacksonville Beach, especially on holidays.

A couple videos are circulating online of the fights that broke out on Memorial Day.

"I don't even know what you do about it or how you stop that. It makes it sad. It makes it hard for you to even want to go out to the beach," said Samantha Price.

Harpersberger calls it ridiculous. The restaurant he works at closed early Monday night because of the fights. He said his paycheck was $80 short.

Channel 4 learned the Jacksonville Beach Police Department had 16 officers on duty Monday night, patrolling the crowd of thousands that appeared at times, to be out of control.

"Our police reacted real quick, our sergeants made quick decisions and no one got hurt, in the fight except the victims, and police are handling that now," said a spokesman from the Police Department.

There are some changes being made at the Police Department. Now all of its officers will work Sundays and during holidays throughout the summer in an effort to prevent any more trouble.

Residents were set to gather at the Pier Cantina on Thursday evening to talk about the problems they've had and brainstorm ways to fix them.

"A lot of my friends on Facebook have been commenting, saying, 'That's why I don't go out there anymore,'" said Fernando Meza, who organized the meeting on violence. "And that's not what we want to hear. That's not what I want to hear. This is my community. This is where I work. This is where I come out on my time off. When I watched these videos I was pretty much disgusted."

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