CLAY COUNTY – In what promises to be one of the busiest, if not the busiest, days challenging law enforcement, Sheriff Michelle Cook said she’s confident her agency is ready to handle the crush …
CLAY COUNTY – In what promises to be one of the busiest, if not the busiest, days challenging law enforcement, Sheriff Michelle Cook said she’s confident her agency is ready to handle the crush of people and traffic expected at more than a dozen events on Saturday, Dec. 9.
Officials admitted they were caught off guard when organizers scheduled five parades, four exhibits, a circus and a play on the same day. Nobody was more surprised – and anxious – than Cook.
So, she called a press conference on Tuesday to assure CCSO was prepared to handle every event.
“Clay County is knee-deep into the holiday spirit and holiday festivities, and we wanted to come to you all today to give you an update on the large number of special events that are going to be happening this Saturday,” she said.
“We will have at least 12 major events occurring and over 150 and Clay County Sheriff’s Office personnel working. Our goal is to ensure the safety and security of all the attendees. Despite the heightened activity surrounding these events, the CCSO remains committed to maintaining the safety and security of the entire community.”
The busy day starts with a Christmas parade in Penney Farms. What follows will stretch the county’s resources.
Additional parades in Keystone Heights, Middleburg, Whitey’s Fish Camp and Oakleaf present logistical challenges, but added with holiday exhibits, festivals and Nativity scenes at Elrod Acres and Snitkaw Farms in Green Cove Springs, Clarke House in Orange Park, the festival of Christmas trees in Green Cove Springs and Keystone Heights, Circus Delman at the Orange Park Mall and a performance of “The Nutcracker” at the Thrasher-Horne Center exasperates the need for law enforcement.
Cook said agencies from Fire Rescue, Emergency Management, Green Cove Springs and Orange Park police departments and the sheriff’s office have worked together to formulate a plan to cover every event.
“Regular calls for service will be answered promptly, ensuring that essential law enforcement functions continue without interruption,” she said.
The county will activate the emergency management office to monitor traffic cameras and the varied radio frequencies.
One of the greatest concerns is the inaugural parade in Oakleaf. Cook said parking on the restricted route would require portions of Oakleaf Plantation Parkway and Plantation Oaks Boulevard to be closed during the parade. To make sure there is access for emergency and local traffic, access to Cambridge, Coventry, Whitfield and Willowbrook at Oakleaf Plantation and Milestone Village Condominiums will be restricted, Cook said.
The sheriff also said her agency has worked with parade organizers to emphasize safety protocols, like asking people on floats not to throw candy and trinkets to the crowd because younger children may walk into traffic to retrieve the gifts.
Despite being stretched, Cook said she is confident everyone will have a good – and safe – time.
“We will have plenty of law enforcement resources out there,” she said. “We will not tolerate fights or fighting or any sort of violence. That’s why we have 150 people working that night. We will keep Clay County safe. We will continue to keep Clay County safe.
“I’m confident that on Dec. 9, after the festivities have ended, there’ll be thousands and thousands of very happy little kids and happy people who truly enjoyed themselves at one of these great events.”