Gainesville police working to lower arrest rates for black youth

Chief Tony Jones/WGFL

In Tuesday's town hall meeting, Gainesvile Police Chief Tony Jones talked about crime trends, school resource officers and the use of force policy, but he also talked about a problem he's seen in the community. The problem is the racial disparity in arrest rates.

Chief Jones says in Gainesville the arrest rate for black juveniles is four times higher than whites. The police department is now leading efforts to reduce the number of arrests in the black community.

" What we're trying to do is keep the children out of the criminal justice system," Jones said.

In the last three years GPD has reduced the number of young blacks arrested by 57 percent and Chief Jones says at the heart of reducing the arrest rate is education.

" Before we even get to arrests what can we do prevention wise -- that's going to be the key. Education is one of them," Jones said.

As the daughter of an elementary school teacher, Heather Fitts knows all about the importance of education.

" I feel like if children are educated properly and have the same opportunities or feel like they have the same opportunities its more of an incentive to stay out of trouble," Fitts said.

After hearing remarks from Chief Jones in the town hall meeting, Fitts says she acknowledges the work law enforcement is doing, but it may be falling short in communities that need it most.

" Even now with their after school programs and tutoring those are great, but if a child doesn't have a ride home they have to catch the bus. " Fitts said. " So those things aren't available to them when you have working families versus a mom who can pay to get an Uber for the kid or have a nanny to pick them up. You don't have that. "

As for lowering the number of juvenile arrest that's something the Gainesville Police Department will continue working on one day at a time.

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