‘We’re out here to engage’: Neptune Beach police took to the streets to hear from the community

Neptune Beach Police Department Chief Michael Key, Jr. continued the tradition of “Chief Walks,” where the police department goes door to door speaking to residents to learn about their concerns and see what’s happening in the community.

“We’re out here to engage with our public and if they have issues, I want to hear those issues. I want to direct resources to handle those issues and to curb any type of crime that we experience in our community,” Key said.

Several residents expressed concerns about people dangerously riding electric bikes including Julie Haskell, who noticed the issue when walking her dog, Louie.

“This road is typically where a lot of us walk and bike and while sometimes people will ride their bicycles and they’re watching but they’ll go through the stop signs. It’s a lot different with the electric bikes. I’d like to see something enforced about that a little more,” Haskell said.

Rene Angers was one of the residents Key met with on Wednesday evening during the walk.

Angers talked about her concerns in addition to the e-bikes.

“Well it’s not so much e-bikes, it’s the big mufflers going down Third Street in the middle of the night,” Angers said. “It seems like it’s a contest or something.”

Angers said the e-bikes are also an important issue because of speeding, saying, “Somebody’s going to get really hurt.”

Key said the police department is taking a three-prong approach to tackling the e-bike issue: They’re asking parents to teach their kids to ride the bikes safely. Officers are also going to local schools to give lectures about e-bike safety. The department is doing a strict enforcement campaign as well.

“We sent officers on to First Street and specifically targeted those types of violations, those violations of the reckless operation and fortunately, in 2023, our city council passed the reckless operation of an e-bike ordinance that gave us some teeth right gave us the ability to be able to issue citations for people who are operating those bikes dangerously,” Key said.

Terri Derkum is also a Neptune Beach resident. She lives close to an active area but said she feels safe.

“I’ve always felt like it’s fairly safe. I have a big dog so he protects me but when we’re out walking in the morning and it’s dark I frequently see cruisers so I feel like the neighborhood is patrolled,” Derkum said.

For Angers and Haskell, they’re glad to see the police department take an interest in the community.

“It just makes you feel like they care, they are listening to us, and care about what the residents want,” Haskell said.

“We’re really lucky to be out here and have this wonderful police department in Neptune Beach, it’s an awesome night and it doesn’t get much better,” Angers said.

While the next walk isn’t planned, Key said they intend to do one every three to four months.

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