JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says gangs aren’t a major problem in the city, contradicting what an officer in the gang unit told parents at a public school meeting just a day earlier.
Det. Leon Brown told parents Wednesday night that there’s a turf war among teenage gangs from Raines, Ribault and Lee high schools. He also mentioned Matthew Gilbert Middle School.
“We have gangs, but it’s not a major issue,” said Lt. Derrick Lewis on Thursday at an unscheduled news conference.
Lewis says JSO is tracking 43 different gangs all over the city, with 800 people from kids to adults documented. He says he disagrees with Det. Brown’s comments the gangs are a big problem and contain some of the most violent kids they’d ever seen.
Catherine Varnum with our news partner Action News asked Lewis if he’s making these comments to calm parents’ fears.
“No. If it was an issue, I think you guys would be the first to know about it,” he said.
Jacksonville recently saw 33 shootings in just over a one month period. Lewis acknowledged that they were related to a gang war that is now under control.
“We did deployments for three weeks looking for this activity, quelling that, and it has since stopped,” he said.
Lewis says the best way to stop the problem is to get the message out and ask parents to look for particular tattoos or drawings that could be gang-related.