JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - The Mayor of Jacksonville Beach is reminding people who visit from out of town to behave or risk facing the consequences.
“We’d love to have you,” Mayor Charlie Latham said. “And when you make your decision to come to Jacksonville Beach just make sure you bring your manners. Because if you don’t, we’re gonna hold you accountable for your behavior.”
Mayor Latham made the comments to First Coast News less than two days after a Jacksonville Beach Police officer was shot outside the Waffle House on Beach Boulevard.
Corporal Bill Eierman was shot twice, has been released from the hospital and is recovering at home.
The man accused of shooting Eierman, Jovan Sisljagic, was also treated at the hospital and is now in jail.
“He is not a Jacksonville Beach resident,” Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Patrick Dooley said of Sisljagic. “He is a resident of Jacksonville.”
First Coast News first reported in July that authorities attribute the vast majority of violent crime in Jacksonville Beach to non-Jacksonville Beach residents. That includes people who live in Jacksonville.
“We are sometimes the playground for a metropolitan area of over a million people,” Dooley said. “And because of that…we have the draw here of the beach, we have parking, we have things for people to do. That brings people out here and with that comes people who aren’t always going to play by the rules.”
Mayor Latham said there are 67 spots on the Jacksonville Beach police force, about 65 of which are filled. Latham said that’s enough to cover Jacksonville Beach’s 23,000 residents.
“The problem is when we’ve got more,” Latham said.
The population surges on weekends, growing by about 10-20,000 people on normal weekends and as much as doubling when there are festivals.
“The problem we have is a lot of times people come into town seemingly having a good time and not with any malintent, and the next thing you know it’ll become a problem,” Latham said.
Latham said following the shooting, city leaders looked at whether they’re doing enough to protect residents and first responders.
When asked if they would consider adding money in the budget for more police officers, Latham replied that it wasn’t necessary because they get resources from Neptune Beach, Atlantic Beach and JSO during surge times.
“If we added a bunch of police officers, normally during the week we’d have too many police officers,” Latham said.