An Unexpected Crime
Normally, when I read the police reports for the beaches communities, there is a string of petty crimes like vagrancy, more serious things like home burglary and domestic violence, and occasionally a bar fight. More often than I’d like to see there are drug busts for minor amounts of marijuana or cocaine … against the law, to be sure, but if you don’t run in those circles more of a cause for concern than a threat. Most often, it’s a stolen bicycle that was likely left out in plain view, sometimes someone has had things stolen out of their cars, vandalism, small town stuff.
Recently, though, there have been more serious things. Several attacks have been reported at the beach, including very troubling stories of groups of young men confronting and beating people enjoying our nightlife. Of course, it’s never been a good idea to walk on the beach alone at night, but it seems like these reports are becoming more frequent, and that’s a very disturbing trend. I’m rarely in downtown Jacksonville Beach late at night, let alone early in the morning. But recently, as we walked north waiting to catch the trolley home, I thought about it in some of the darker recesses of 1st street.
Monday, though, brought the worst news we’ve had in a while. Someone was shot and killed at the Waffle House on Beach Boulevard.
33-year-old Roderick Batts was having breakfast at the Waffle House at 3:30 in the morning. He stepped outside to used the phone, and was shot multiple times. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and police are still looking for the assailants, who fled in a dark sedan west on Beach.
Shootings like this are still enough of a rarity at the beach that it’s a big deal. Any murder should be a big deal, of course, but it happens so rarely here at the beach that it really makes us sit up and take notice. Nearly everyone I know has been in the Waffle House, or someplace like it, at 3:30 in the morning after a night on the town. While it seems that the circumstances here might not point to a random shooting, and I don’t know that for sure, the fact that it happened at all is deeply troubling. No one at the moment knows exactly what Mr. Batts might have been into, or why he might have been the target of such a crime. No matter what, though, nobody deserves that.
Every time something like this happens, it makes us feel a little less safe. I don’t think for a moment that our beach communities are immune from crime, even violent crime, but it’s such a rare occurrence that it’s jarring when it happens. Those of us who live at the beach, and those who come here to relax and get away from the stresses of everyday life see it as an escape … a haven from what might be happening on the other side of the Intercoastal Waterway. We want to believe it … not in a snobby or Pollyannaish way, but in a way that allows us to sit and listen to the soaking rain from a nor’easter and worry more about street flooding than street crime.
But crime is everywhere, and in difficult economic times it seems like there is more of it. Our local police forces do a commendable job, but as we all know, and as Sherriff Rutherford has told me in more than one interview, they can’t be everywhere at once.
The only ones who know all the circumstances of Mr. Batt’s shooting the other night are the people who did the shooting. West on Beach from the Waffle House covers a lot of ground, and one can’t assume that the perpetrators live on the other side of the ditch. It would be dangerous to make such an assumption. The best we can all do is make every effort to protect ourselves in our homes and our persons, be vigilant, and smart about our choices. Unfortunately, that’s probably a pretty good idea no matter where you live.