By Greg Jackson, Esq.
Now that the Apopka Task Force on Violence Biopsy, a comprehensive report with specific recommendations to address violence in Apopka -- the second largest municipality in Orange County, Florida -- has been released, legislators, local elected officials and business leaders alike are sitting up and taking note. As I watched various news reports and saw online discussions about the dichotomous approaches to the issue of violence by two different communities, the words of a classic literary work began to echo in my head. I thought what better way to explain the tale of two cities approaches to violence than the adaptation of Charles Dickens' words from "A Tale of Two Cities" to guide me. So, here goes nothing --
it was a frustrating time,
it was the age of new ideas to address a dilemma,
it was the age of following antiquated tactics to address a dilemma,
it was an opportunity to be inclusive,
it was a missed opportunity to hear diverse voices,
it was the season of growth and prosperity,
it was the season of counter-productivity,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,
we had a multidisciplinary approach before us,
they had a limited approach before them,
we were going to follow the lead of the community,
they were following leaders who ignored the communities true needs --
In short, two communities -- Apopka and Pine Hills -- were faced with increasing violence and the leadership and citizenry in each devised differing plans to address the situation that, for good or bad, led to comparisons of the two areas' respective strategies.
There were community leaders in Pine Hills who wanted to state their cases before news cameras and call for ceremonial meetings; there were citizens in Apopka who came together with various experts and community stakeholders to devise a strategy within 90 days of its first meeting. In both communities it was clearer than crystal to the respective residents that things were improving ever so slightly in Apopka as the community came together to address violence through a multidisciplinary approach that focused on economic development, community accountability, education, affordable housing strategies and initiatives to improve relationships between residents and law enforcement. Pine Hills community leaders called for meeting after meeting to ask more questions than provide long lasting solutions.
As a student at the historic Leon High School (shout out to Tallahassee), which was established as a Florida school in 1831, 14 years before Florida entered into statehood, I never would have thought that the Dickens' classic literary work, "A Tale of Two Cities," would be used by me to describe two Central Florida cities' approaches to violence. Dickens' work deals with the major themes of duality, revolution, and resurrection in London and Paris, as economic and political unrest lead to the American and French Revolutions.
This not so famous literary piece that I have penned similarly looks at the societal unrest in Apopka and Pine Hills, and the factors that must be taken into account to seriously address the concerns of residents. This issue cannot be looked at from just a law enforcement or social programs standpoint. It must be viewed from the standpoints of economic development, affordable housing and homeownership, education, job initiatives, etc. As I have indicated before, it appears that Apopka has the right idea to its approach to violence, which is being effective, and the rest of Central Florida is taking note. My only concern is that pride, egos and petty differences will affect the acceptance of the Apopka Task Force's recommendations and mere surface solutions will continue ... In my humble opinion.