JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Community members in the Northside hope a state-of-the-art forensics lab and police substation will provide a renewed sense of security.
Juanita Odum has seen a lot of changes in her Northside neighborhood.
"We're the oldest neighbors in the neighborhood," said Odum.
She remembers a time when the metal fixtures on her windows, known around there as burglar bars, weren't necessary.
"It's not safe to leave your door open in the daytime. It's not safe to walk around in the daytime," said Odum.
The 78-year-old has always lived within a couple blocks of Edward Waters College. Now she feels safer living alone on her street.
In a grand ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, EWC officials and Sheriff John Rutherford helped unveil a new $2.6 million Center for Criminal Justice and Forensic Science.
Students and police officers will train side-by-side in the 10,000-square-foot facility. It marks the school's largest expansion in nearly two decades.
"With me coming here as president and a former sheriff, it would have been almost criminal if I didn't bring this to fruition," said EWC President Nat Glover.
It's the new Zone 5 substation for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. More than 240 officers will report for morning briefings upstairs before hitting the streets in a neighborhood once known for violent crimes.
"It's the hub for this zone," said Rutherford. "That's 240 officers who will be in this area constantly."
Odum is thankful the new facility's impact reaches blocks beyond the EWC campus.
"That's a blessing to know that you've got some protection in your neighborhood," said Odum.
A large portion of funding, about $900,000, came from JSO-confiscated drug money.