What is the root of violence?
Cultures have been asking this question since the dawn of time. The question starts biblically almost immediately in Genesis 3 with The Fall, and continues into Genesis 4 with the first murder, but for Apopka this question extends to a grassy field beside a church on Old Apopka Road and 13th Street.
It was there that an 18-year-old teenager was shot and killed; yet with 40 people serving as witnesses, there is still not enough evidence available for authorities to make an arrest.
So what is the root of violence?
No one can answer this question with certainty, but leaders in the Apopka community got together at The John Bridges Community Center Thursday night in an attempt to try.
County and city commissioners, pastors, The Apopka Police Chief, a representative from The Orange County Sheriff’s Office, candidates for elected office and residents of Apopka all came to talk, listen and discuss the violence overwhelming Apopka in the past few weeks.
They spoke eloquently as a whole, provided several theories, and in the end arrived with a plan of action.
Pastor Hezekiah Bradford, the President of the South Apopka Ministerial Alliance that hosted the event, made the point that this will be a slow and deliberate process.
“Nothing is going to happen overnight, but this is where we start.”
Pastor Richard King spoke of solidarity.
“If we lock arms… if we join hands together we can solve this problem.”
One issue often pointed out is the fact that depending on where you happen to be standing in South Apopka, the jurisdiction can switch from The Apopka Police Department and The Orange County Sheriff’s Office from block-to-block in some instances. However APD Chief Michael McKinley says the two departments coordinate and work well together.
“We (the APD) don’t have legal authority outside of Apopka, but we still work with The OCSO,” he said. “I worked for them for over 20 years. There is a good working relationship between us.”
Greg Jackson spoke of jobs being at the core of solving the violence problem.
“The root of violence is poverty and a lack of economic opportunities,” said Jackson, who is currently the Orange County District 2 Representative for the Board of Zoning Adjustment, and a candidate for State Representative/District 45. “Opportunities are not coming back to Apopka. We have to bring jobs here. If someone talks about the violence, ask them 'Are you committed to bringing jobs to our community?' That’s how we address violence in our community.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Rod Love, an Apopka businessman, was introduced as Co-Chairman of the Task Force, along with Apopka resident Ken Wilson. Love said the Task Force would work for a 90-day period, and enlist representatives from the OCSO, the APD, the Orange County school system and the business, legal and faith communities. A high school student will also be appointed, and several citizens will also work on the task force. At the end of the 90-days, they will issue recommendations to city and county officials.