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Fight against crime ends with a raid in St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg Police undercover officers participate in a drug bust at 2751 Third Ave. S in St. Petersburg Tuesday.

DIRK SHADD | Times

St. Petersburg Police undercover officers participate in a drug bust at 2751 Third Ave. S in St. Petersburg Tuesday.

ST. PETERSBURG — Police marked the end of a four-month campaign against crime in three troubled neighborhoods with a raid Wednesday of a suspected Palmetto Park drug house.

Detectives said they seized marijuana, crack cocaine, a TEC-9 assault pistol, a Charter Arms .44-caliber Magnum revolver, two stun guns, $1,593 in cash, a 1995 Chevrolet Camaro and myriad ammunition from a small house at 2751 Third Ave. S.

"People referred to it like Taco Bell," Officer Barry Books said. "People were driving by there at all hours. It was always open."

Six people were arrested on drug-related charges: Jonathan Blue, 21, Desmond Blue, 36, Paul Jackson, 47, Daniel Pendleton, 56, Angela Bates, 38, and Mary Leacock, 21.

Police would not specify the quantity of drugs seized. They took six pit bulls into custody.

Police scheduled a news conference to coincide with the drug bust. As reporters, TV crews and city leaders gathered nearby, officers led a handcuffed Jonathan Blue into a police vehicle late Wednesday morning.

Harmon created the campaign, called "Community and Police Engagement," in late May, after churches and City Council members complained of growing violent crime.

Police say crime has actually dropped this year. Still, Harmon assigned four-member teams to address recurring problems in Childs Park, Palmetto Park and Harbordale, neighborhoods plagued with gun violence. The goal was for police to form relationships with residents, Harmon said.

During the program, which ended Tuesday, violent crimes decreased 27 percent and gun-related crimes decreased 17 percent compared to the same period last year. No homicides were reported.

"To say that this prevented homicides, I can't say that," Harmon said. "It enabled us to know our neighborhoods a little better."

Harmon said he is considering making a similar initiative year-round.

Mayor Rick Baker praised the efforts. "The No. 1 job of the city, of government is public safety," said Baker. "Until you have no crime, crime is a problem."

Council member Karl Nurse, a sometime critic of the Police Department, said officers should continue reaching out to neighborhoods.

"We should keep doing things that work," he said.

Fight against crime ends with a raid in St. Petersburg 09/30/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 2, 2008 3:21pm]
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