Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday August 14th 2018


The Buzz 7/26/12


The Pensacola Police plan to saturate city neighborhoods with uniformed officers in an attempt to halt a recent spate of gun violence. The effort, explained Chief Chip Simmons during a July 20 press conference, will encompass the whole city, but would be concentrated on the area of East Strong Street and Desoto Street, where three drive-by shootings occurred within a span of a few days.

In one July 17 incident a 15-year-old boy was shot in the leg. No one was hurt in the other drive-bys.

“We cannot tolerate this activity in our city and we will use every last officer in a visible capacity to take action,” Simmons said. “Officers that are usually assigned to administrative tasks and plainclothes officers that are usually assigned to follow up activities, or officers that are normally assigned to training activities, will be in uniform.”

The chief said the number of officers on the street would likely fluctuate between 154 (every officer in the department) and 75 (every officer in the department). He evaded a reporter who asked what increase this would be over the status quo. Simmons also said security at Gallery Night, Blue Wahoos games and other events would not be affected.

The strategy was implemented in the wake of the drive-bys, and would evolve over the next two weeks. Simmons did not provide firm dates.

“As long as we can, we’re gonna keep this up,” he said.

Mayor Ashton Hayward was at the press conference, as well. Asked if more officers would be hired, the mayor did not answer the question.

“We would all like to see more officers,” he said. “We all want to feel safe when we’re down at Gallery Night or at a Blue Wahoos game, and I think the majority of citizens do feel safe … the last thing we want is people getting shot at, much less killed. We’re gonna patrol every neighborhood. Every neighborhood deserves the same amount of policing, and that’s what we’re gonna do.”

Lumon May, who is running for the District 3 seat on the Escambia County Commission, was also present at the meeting. He asked Simmons if the effort would encompass the west side of the city.

“There has been a history of violence in the Western Gate, off of Pace Boulevard and Cervantes, coming into our city, with a lot of establishments that seem to have a chronic problem,” May said. “Will that be a target … for the systemic problem that we see?”

The police chief assured May that officers would patrol every neighborhood in the city.

“Our intent is not to stop everyone and harass everyone,” Simmons said. “Our intent is to show a police presence. If you’re up to no good, you can expect to be stopped and potentially questioned by law enforcement. If you’re not up to no good, then just wave, and, you know, we’ll wave back.”

The strategy is not new in the area. It’s similar to the “Desks to Roads” tactic used by Sheriff David Morgan in 2011. During that time, the county saw a decline in crime.

During a recent trip to Key West, Fla., Pensacola City Councilman Larry Johnson discovered the island had a large chicken population. When he went out for lunch, the birds roamed freely around his feet.

“In Key West, they have chickens everywhere,” Johnson told his fellow council members during the July 16 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Upon returning to Pensacola, the councilman—along with the rest of the board—took up the chicken issue, as it pertains to the urban farming movement. The Pensacola City Council ultimately approved a rewrite of the city’s ordinance dealing with keeping chickens within the municipality’s limits. The changes are a nod to backyard chicken enthusiasts, who have worked for several months with city staff on the rewrite effort.

“It’s much more restrictive, but it adds a caveat for urban farmers,” explained Councilwoman Sherri Myers, who was instrumental in the effort. “In a nut shell, it’s much tougher.”

Currently, city residents may keep an unspecified number of chickens on their property. However, a requirement that the birds be kept in an enclosure located 50 feet away from any structure—including the resident’s own dwelling—means a vast majority of residents can’t logistically enjoy the practice.

The rewritten ordinance limits the number of chickens a person may keep to eight. It also decreases the required distance from a structure to 30 feet, not counting a resident’s own house.

“I think this ordinance is very reasonable,” Myers told her fellow council members.

The city council has been discussing the backyard chicken issue for the past several months. Local urban farmers—hailing mainly from the East Hill neighborhood—worked with city code enforcement officials to rewrite the ordinance. The group studied other locale’s efforts to accommodate urban farming, a growing trend across the country.

Another change in the ordinance will allow backyard chickens to be free-roaming. While residents must have a coop for the animals, they can also roam freely around their enclosed yard. The rewritten ordinance will also disallow roosters, due to noise concerns.

Some other concerns were also raised during the council’s discussion. There was a suggestion from a member of the public that residents be required to get the approval of their surrounding neighbors before launching into their backyard chicken venture.

While Councilwoman Maren DeWeese said the council might want to revisit the issue of requiring a permit for such activity sometime in the future, no one on the board seemed too keen on requiring chicken keepers to gain their neighbor’s approval of the practice—Councilman Brian Spencer said such a requirement would lead to surrounding residents exercising “unreasonable control over their chicken-loving neighbor.”

Citizens that have spoken in support of keeping backyard chickens—some of whom had run-ins with code enforcement, which triggered the rewrite—had explained during previous council meetings that they enjoyed the fresh eggs provided by the animals, and also considered them as pets. The rewritten ordinance provides for such, but specifically forbids residents from slaughtering the birds for food.

“A person can’t raise a chicken, wring its neck and eat it like they did years ago when they raised chickens?” asked Councilman Ronald Townsend. “There are some folks who do that, you know?”

“I like chicken, myself,” said Steve Wineki, head of the city’s code enforcement, explaining that Councilwoman Myers had requested that aspect of the rewrite.

“I used to try to do it,” Townsend said, recounting his attempts to wring chicken necks. “But the chicken would get up and run.”

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