There’s a new sheriff in town.
Actually, Officer Gloria Graham with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office isn’t by definition a new sheriff, but she’s the latest addition to Downtown’s walking beat patrol.
A 15-year veteran of the force, Graham is part of Downtown’s law enforcement team of eight officers who work in the area bounded by the St. Johns River on the south, Church Street on the north, Broad Street on the west and Liberty Street on the east.
Graham chose her career for its diversity of routine.
“I wanted a job where I knew it would be different and exciting every day. In police work, there’s never a dull moment,” she said.
The Downtown beat officers’ workday begins at 6 a.m. when they first patrol the Northbank Riverwalk and ends at 7 p.m.
Their shifts are spent enforcing the laws against panhandling, trespassing and urban camping for the most part. Downtown has some of the lowest rates of property crime and violent crime in Duval County, said Assistant Chief Michelle Cook.
“It’s not so much crime as it is nuisance issues,” she said.
Much of Graham’s day is spent visiting business and property owners. That lets her know who is part of the neighborhood — and who might not be.
“I meet the business owners and get to know them. This is person-to-person police work. Downtown is very neighborly. The walking beat has given me a different view of police work,” Graham said.
The walking beat officers and their colleagues on bicycles are a valuable part of the neighborhood as far as the business owners are concerned.
“We need proactive police officers. When they are walking around, they can walk up on people who are doing something they are not supposed to be doing,” said Vicki Wilkins, owner of the UPS Store on Hogan Street near Hemming Plaza.
“The walking officers are a great deterrent. You never know when they might be coming around the corner,” she said.
Wilkins said Downtown differs from other neighborhoods.
“In the suburbs, you need officers in patrol cars. Here, we need walkers and bikers,” she said.
Jacobs Jewelers owner Roy Thomas has been in business Downtown since 1960. He said the walking beat has always been part of the street scene and he has learned the value of having police officers walking the sidewalks around his store.
He also appreciates the officers parking their patrol cars at Snyder Memorial across Monroe Street from the plaza.
“Having the cars at the park is a perfect place for them. It’s good that the cars are visible. It’s much better to deter someone from doing something than to catch them doing it,” Thomas said.
Graham is an avid athlete. Logging 100 miles on her mountain bike is not unusual, so walking on the job is a plus, even with the 20 pounds of equipment a police officer wears, she said.
The assignment also has given Graham a new perspective on the city’s center of business and culture.
“I’m from Jacksonville, but up until now, I haven’t spent much time Downtown. I can’t believe I waited so long to come down here,” she said.
Graham said if a Downtown business owner, property owner, employee or resident has a non-emergency law enforcement issue they would like to discuss, she can be reached on her cell phone at 982-6159.
Covering events in the Realty and Building communities in Northeast Florida.
10 North Newnan Street · Jacksonville, FL 32202 · (904) 356-2466 · Fax (904) 353-2628
© 2013 Bailey Publishing & Communications, Inc. All Right Reserved.