Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Few new ideas in political responses to St. Petersburg shooting

ST. PETERSBURG — The city's political elite had plenty to say about Sunday's murder of an 8-year-old girl in her home.

But the men and women who run the city or hope to be elected this fall leaned heavily on recycled ideas and rhetoric this week when asked about solutions to St. Petersburg's violent gun and drug culture. The familiar themes included more police officers, greater community outreach, economic development, gang awareness campaigns and better communication between parents and children.

All are ideas pushed by Mayor Rick Baker during his eight years in office to mixed results.

But candidates and city leaders said that doesn't mean their solutions won't work.

"We are always going to be redoubling our efforts," said Baker, who blamed music and other cultural elements that promote violence. "You have to continue to work at it until there is no crime."

No amount of policing could have prevented the death of Paris Whitehead-Hamilton in her Bartlett Park home, according to a majority of the nine mayoral candidates.

"How were they supposed to know that was going to happen?" said mayoral hopeful and City Council member Jamie Bennett, who now wants to reinstate a gun give-back program. "It is just unjustified to point fingers."

But the girl's death might be the rallying cry residents need to stand up against criminals, leaders said.

"This cuts to the core of public safety, when kids can't sleep in their house," said Scott Wagman, a mayoral candidate and real estate investor who called for a more visible police presence in known hot spots.

Former council member Bill Foster, another mayoral hopeful, said if police want to tackle a rampant "no snitching" culture, they need to build relationships by going door to door, a policy the Police Department has already implemented in Bartlett Park. Foster said he would create an education program for local schools that teaches children about the consequences of gun violence.

Children also need father figures, Foster said.

"We need to appeal to the men of the city, the men of the community to take responsibility for the kids," he said. "This is an all-hands-on-deck appeal."

The response to the shooting seemed to earn police Chief Chuck Harmon, whose leadership capabilities have been criticized recently, some political points. He was praised by Baker, the City Council and most of the candidates.

"He communicated a determination to get the criminals and the anger that the community feels at this kind of violence," said council member Karl Nurse, a sometime critic of Harmon's who represents Bartlett Park.

But the murder lost Harmon at least one supporter.

Mayoral hopeful Sharon Russ said last month that she could see herself working with Harmon if she was elected.

On Monday, she changed her mind. Harmon needs to be fired, she said.

"I don't think Chuck Harmon does anything to assure the public," she said.

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or [email protected]

Few new ideas in political responses to St. Petersburg shooting 04/07/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 3:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Bruno Mars' charisma glitters like gold at Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Nothing in this world should be as easy as Bruno Mars makes it look. Not singing, not dancing, and certainly not playfully seducing more than 17,500 starry-eyed Tampa fans with one of pop music’s best bands at your back.

    Bruno Mars performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Oct. 19, 2017.
  2. Mikhail Sergachev scores twice as Lightning shuts out Blue Jackets (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mikhail Sergachev said he blacked out for a few seconds after his first NHL goal Thursday night, a rocket slap shot from the point.

    Mikhail Sergachev, front, looks like he’s very in the moment with teammate Dan Girardi after scoring his first NHL goal, though he says he blacked out for a bit. He scores again in the second.
  3. Dodgers rout Cubs 11-1 to win pennant, head to World Series for first time since '88


    CHICAGO — Enrique Hernandez put a Hollywood ending on an LA story three decades in the making.

    The Dodgers celebrate their Game 5 victory Thursday night over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, putting Los Angeles in the World Series for the first time since 1988.
  4. Another suspicious death in Tampa's Seminole Heights


    TAMPA — Police were investigating what they were calling a suspicious death in southeast Seminole Heights Thursday night, near the location of two fatal shootings last week.

    Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan addresses reporters about the latest suspicious death in southeast Seminole Heights Thursday night. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL | Times]
  5. Duke tops preseason coaches' basketball poll; Gators No. 7


    Duke has been tabbed basketball's preseason No. 1 for the second straight season in the coaches' poll, released Thursday.

    Florida point guard Chris Chiozza launches the shot of last season’s NCAA Tournament, a winning 3
against Wisconsin that put the Gators into the Elite Eight. Chiozza returns to lead a UF team that’s getting its share of preseason attention, including a No. 7 ranking in the coaches’ poll.