Hampton Lintorn Catlin

DART Raids in Jacksonville

I recently moved my business to Jacksonville. I came back primarily because for a medium-sized city, Jacksonville has a vibrant and interesting indie scene along with a relatively cheap cost of living. However, my move coincided with police “raids” on several of the more interesting clubs in town. A police group called DART has been running these raids. The Pearl was shut down last Thursday. Read more about the drama at Urban Jacksonville. I wrote to the mayor and actually received a response back. I have posted that response here.

Dear Mr. Catlin:

Thank you for taking the time to write. Mayor John Peyton has asked me to respond on his behalf. We appreciate your concern and know that The Pearl is a ‘destination’ for many people around the city. It has done a lot to put Springfield on the map with our under-30 crowd in Jacksonville.

To provide background, Jacksonville’s Drug Abatement Response Team (DART) was established in January 1996 to combat illegal drugs in Jacksonville. The team is composed of representatives from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Fire Marshal’s office, Municipal Code Compliance and the Building Inspection Division. It also can call on the resources of Community Services, Animal Care and Control, Community Development, JEA, Public Utilities, the Division of Alcohol, Beverages and Tobacco, the Division of Hotels and Restaurants, the Property Appraiser’s Office, the Office of General Counsel, the Department of Children and Families, and the State Attorney.

The city would not DART a commercial establishment or private residence for potential code violations alone. These types of violations are handled by the Municipal Code Compliance and Building Inspection Divisions of the city on a day to day basis. For the DART team to investigate a property there must be credible evidence of illegal activity. In addition, the team must ask for permission for entry before entering the establishment.

Please understand it was for these reasons that The Pearl was the subject of DART action on Thursday night. Following concerns about underage drinking and narcotics being sold/used at The Pearl, the DART team arrived at the club and was allowed in by the manager. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the Division of Alcohol, Beverage and Tobacco entered the building with the city’s Building Inspection Division and Fire Marshal. While I do not have the exact number or nature of the arrests, I do know that law enforcement officials did make at least one arrest in the establishment that evening.

Once inside, the team observed that the club had more than 400 people in it. I am told that the Fire Marshal’s capacity rating for the building was less than half that number, creating a serious safety risk had an emergency occurred in the structure.

There was also a concern about the building’s emergency egress. The only open and accessible egress/exit from the building was through the front door (the gate in the back was chained shut).

There were multiple other Building and Fire code violations that made the building unsafe. This included extension cords with the ends stripped off and hard-wired to an electrical panel, extension cords in unsafe places, unsafe/incomplete remodeling work, and a variety of other electrical and plumbing issues. To ensure the safety of the club’s patrons as well as the structures located around the establishment, the facility was closed until the hazards were eliminated.

I truly understand and appreciate your concerns. I also hope, however, that you can appreciate the city’s responsibility to ensure the safety and security of our residents. I hope that the owner can bring the Building and Fire violations into compliance so that she may re-open as soon as possible.

Again, thank you for writing.

Sincerely,

Derek D. Igou

Deputy Director

Environmental and Compliance Department

And my response:

Derek-

Thank you so much for a response. I will make sure that this answer gets to the right people.

I think it would be excellent if the City would make a public announcement of support for business owners in this city.

Whatever the intention was of the “late-night inspection,” the feeling of being there was a bit spooky and Police-state feeling. The fact is that the building inspections could have been done during less conspicuous hours. And no club owner can guarantee a totally drug-free environment. I have never seen any drug use at the Pearl, but certainly young people have come in with something in their pockets. Second to doing a pat-down at every entry and re-entry of the club, something I have never witnessed anywhere, its impossible to keep an entirely clean business. Much like a restaurant being held liable for a patron having drugs in their pocket, I believe this to be an unreasonable expectation of businesses. Now, the expectation that visible usage is discouraged (clientele kicked out and banned).

The building code violations I’m sure were real and serious and needed to be addressed. But, perhaps make it feel less like a raid?

Anyhow, none of that really matters. However, I do suggest making a public statement of support for business owners that cater to the young artistic crowd. It would do a lot to help things.

Thanks again for the response. Its good to know someone is listening.

-Hampton Catlin.

Its good to see that someone is listening at least!


Comments

Sep 20, 2008
Colin said...
Glad to see you are getting back into the local scene. Seems little tougher than Canada though!
Sep 22, 2008
melissa said...
Why is that "inspection" so weird? It happens in Toronto as well, in pretty much the exact same way. (Hello, Comfort Zone.)
Sep 23, 2008
Nicolas L. said...
Sorry but... WHEN WILL YOU RELEASE IWIK 1.3 ?!!!
Nov 12, 2008
Ernie Griffin said...
pf63gu6eamswen96
Jun 29, 2009
Lubas said...
Active listening and real-life response... what can we call us, at last? "Light-Age" precursors...? Be Blessed! _/|\_