St. Augustine city leaders held their annual strategic planning meeting today, prioritizing budget items to be set in the fall.
Among the objectives discussed were potential changes to St. Augustine’s nightlife as a response to a number of crimes in the downtown area.
Action News Jax told you on Jan. 27 when two people were stabbed around 1:30 a.m. on Spanish Street. We also reported in early January when an alleged sexual assault occurred in a public bathroom in downtown St. Augustine.
Just one week ago, we told you when a suspected drunken driver hit a couple, leaving a woman in critical condition, before plowing into Tolomato Cemetery.
Many we spoke with didn’t find the incidents alarming, while others disagreed.
“I’m concerned for her walking around,” said Mitchell Cottingham as he turned to his girlfriend, Hannah Hawkins. “I mean, honestly, when you’re walking by yourself at night, it worries me.”
Mayor Nancy Shaver, police Chief Barry E. Fox, Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline, and City Manager John Regan were among those city leaders who met today.
Action News Jax talked with some of them today, and they say they’re exploring potential nightlife-oriented solutions.
The changes could include a business improvement district, more training for bars teaching them not to overserve patrons and additional resources for police officers.
Jayson Befort manages the No Name Bar in St. Augustine and said the city could use more officers patrolling in the downtown areas.
“If you had more four-wheelers, or golf carts, police officers on golf carts or bicycles, you'd surround a bigger area and you’d have less problems with stabbings or bathroom incidents,” said Befort. “Because there’d be more of a police presence.”
Shaver says these measures could preserve St. Augustine’s unique culture. She tells Action News Jax she wants to first explore the nature of the problem before determining if any changes will be made.
“It’s a good reminder of us to revisit, as we do pretty much every year,” said Shaver. “Do we have the right policy of closing time? What about our noise ordinances? What about amplified noise? What does the community really want to be?”
Next, the city says they’ll meet with neighbors and businesses to discuss potential solutions. Hawkins and Cottingham welcomed the idea of the city getting involved.
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