Clay County

‘I will not give up’: Sheriff Cook on crime at Orange Park Mall

ORANGE PARK, Fla. — Action News Jax Robert Grant will have the latest updates from Sheriff Cook on FOX30 at 10

A 20-year-old from Jacksonville was arrested after shots were fired near Orange Park Mall on Saturday night.

According to the report, after several fights were broken up and the carnival was evacuated, officers began to “hear gunfire, see muzzle flashes from firearms” and “observed people running” across the street from the mall.

Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook grew up across the street from Orange Park Mall.

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“Orange Park Mall is a cornerstone of Clay County, and I’m not ready to give up on it,” Cook told Action News Jax’s Robert Grant.

She admitted there are problems mostly with groups of kids hanging out at the spot on Blanding Boulevard and Wells Road but added there is not a violent crime issue.

According to Cook, there’s fewer than one violent incident a month at the mall, which welcomes up to 35,000 visitors a week.

“It’s a perception issue at Orange Park Mall, not a reality issue. I don’t want the perception to become the reality,” she said.

Cook said her office has a strong relationship with mall management and is working to address the concerns with groups of kids at the mall.

In a statement to Action News Jax, the malls’ general manager, Randy Bowman, said, “The safety of our guests, retailers and employees is our top priority. We are working closely with CCSO as they investigate this isolated incident.”

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office is also working on a full-service substation inside the mall, which will provide services for Clay residents in northern parts of the county.

Cook said she hopes to have it up and running by the end of the year.

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But she argues the mall is not the only problem, adding that the “broken windows theory” exists on other parts of Wells Road and Blanding Boulevard.

“If an area looks like it’s in decline, then people will assume it’s in decline. That’s when bad guys move in and do bad things,” Cook said. “Let’s make a very clear statement to the bad guys who may be eying that area — that we are not a community in decline.”