A recent rash of shootings and violence, particularly in Daytona Beach, may make some residents think they need to run for cover every day.
But, in a telephone interview, Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri wanted to reassure residents the city is safe.
“We had several shootings that were all related to the same incident,” Chief Capri said. “It’s not gang related. It’s totally safe here and we were able to identify most of the suspects involved. We immediately got on top of it and it’s been quiet ever since. Three are in custody and the one main target (Kevin Stokes) we are looking for the homicide, we have a warrant for his arrest for murder. We’re actively searching for him.
“We’ve also kicked off our summer violent crime initiative (Operation Summer Heat) where we put extra resources out on the streets,” the chief said. “It’s a street violence task force where we look specifically for firearm offenses and street violent crime. We’ve been hitting the streets hard and the word is out. It looks like (the recent violence) was an anomaly, an unfortunate event, anytime you have one shooting. But it was never out of control, the city was never lost.”
Chief Capri added the probability of a citizen getting randomly shot is slim to none. He said some occurrences are hard to predict but what is important is how you react to the event and he felt the police department reacted well.
“You get on top of it and try to stop it,” he said. “This event unfolded pretty rapidly. We sent the message we are not going to tolerate that type of gun violence in our city. We’re transparent, we’ve got nothing to hide. We want to get as much information as we can out to the public. The reward to find Kevin Stokes is up to $10,000.”
At an earlier news conference, Chief Capri said the shootings were between two rival groups involving rap music and drugs. Those arrested have a history of street-level crimes, but “keep getting out,” according to the chief.
Daytona Beach's homicide numbers are dropping. Gun violence numbers are dropping as well as the overall crime rate is dropping, he said.
“We want our citizens, our visitors, everybody to be safe here and have a great time,” the chief said. “We just had some major events in the city with no incidents. We are going to continue our efforts and I believe in the bottom of my heart this is truly a safe city.
“We can’t do it all by ourselves, we need that community piece to help us out,” Chief Capri said.
At the news conference, Mayor Derrick Henry agreed the events were an anomaly, but understood why visitors and residents would be alarmed. He strongly advocated that it is critical the community works with law enforcement to show a unified front so criminals know “crime doesn’t pay in Daytona Beach.”
Norma Bland, a community activist who works with community watch groups in Daytona Beach, was also at the news conference. She addressed some of her remarks to the state attorney’s office.
“Stop putting our young people through revolving doors,” Ms. Bland said. “Do what you have to do to get them off our streets. You have young people that have gone through the criminal justice system four and five times and you keep patting them on the hand and putting them back on the streets. We need to do something with the product we are putting out, which is our youth. And parents you need to step up, step in and be responsible for your children.”
Violent crime also is down in DeLand, according to Police Chief Jason Umberger.
“Violent crime against persons and particularly gun violence against persons continues to be a major concern to the DeLand Police Department and we are committed to investigating these crimes as thoroughly as possible and charging those responsible for their crimes,” Chief Umberger said. “To those ends we have created a Special Investigations Unit housed within our Criminal Investigation Division headed up by a sergeant and three investigators whose sole focus is to work these types of crime. This unit is proactive in its efforts and focuses on crimes that research and experience tell us have a high propensity to lead to crimes against persons.”
Comparing crime statistics between the first six months of 2019 to the first six months of 2018, he did not see any spike from year to year. In fact, overall violent crime against persons are slightly down the first six months of this year compared to the first six months last year. In the last two weeks, there was a domestic related homicide in DeLand with the parties being related (no immediate danger to the public).
New technology is helping law enforcement officers to communicate with each other throughout the county along with providing creative new ways the police can intervene in criminal activity.
The Volusia County Sheriff's Office has established a Volusia County Crime Center, which Sheriff Mike Chitwood hopes the cities will use.
In introducing the crime center, he said, “If there is a crime pattern in Ormond, everybody in this room will now be an Ormond Beach police department employee, doing all the research they can to fix that problem. When you have a problem, you will have the full force of this behind you, every piece of technology, every analyst doing research.”