JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. -- Neighbors and business owners in Jacksonville Beach are asking questions and demanding answers after a fight nearly shut down the area over the busy Memorial Day weekend.
Hundreds were forced to go home, after one violent fight took place near the Sea Walk Pavilion. Some area businesses shut their doors, fearing for customers safety.
"We make a lot of arrests out here on the weekends," says Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Pat Dooley. He says the number of fights has spiked recently, and that's why extra officers were on hand over the holiday weekend.
"We had 10 additional officers on duty down there, and then we had five more out on the street. So we had 15 officers in our city at the time when this took place."
He says overall, crimes aren't increasing, but he understands the concern of neighbors and business owners who fear tourists will be turned off by the violence.
"The problem is that much of what people are seeing is very visible. So, that is the perception. And I understand that. That's why we're putting more officers on the street every weekend."
But Councilman Keith Doherty says more should be done.
"We need to make a better example of these, for lack of a better word, fools."
The city of Jacksonville Beach spent $5.5 million improving the downtown district in recent years, and safety is one of the core goals of the plan.
"We need to put the word out there that if you misbehave in Jacksonville Beach you will go to jail, you will be punished, you will be fined."
"Our goal is to make it safe here. We want visitors to come to the beach. What we don't want them to do is, when they come across the bridge, we want to make sure they bring their manners with them, and that's not happening in all the cases," says Dooley.
Police say it will take help from the community to curb violence. Action News is told that despite hundreds of witnesses to at least one fight, no one called 911 to report it to police. Instead it was spotted by an on-duty officer in the area.
Officers from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Atlantic Beach Police Department and the Neptune Beach Police Department were called to assist. Chief Dooley says the department doesn't usually need help from JSO on Memorial Day, but will ask for assistance during the next big event on July 4th as they have in the past.
No arrests have been made. Police are asking witnesses to come forward with additional information by calling 904-270-1667.