Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Public safety

Historic Uptown residents sense crime increase, but police disagree

ST. PETERSBURG — In 2011, Historic Uptown residents were looking forward to the new market and cafe under construction at Fifth Street and Seventh Avenue N, across from Round Lake.

But when the so-called cafe neared completion in the fall, metal bars were put on the windows, and it became clear that it was a convenience store.

"The clientele for the store are pretty much transients buying beer and junk food," said Jonathan Chalker, treasurer of the Historic Uptown Neighborhood Association and director of customer care for HSN. "That's essentially what it was set up for and what you get."

Since it opened, many nearby residents claim the Snack Shack has been the focal point of rising crime in the neighborhood — particularly drug-related activity, as well as burglary, prostitution, public drunkenness and break-ins of vacant houses. But police say crime has not increased around the store, though they have responded to residents' concerns by increasing their presence.

Crime "seems to radiate from there," said Lynn Hurtak, 35, who is a member of the neighborhood association board and a freelance editor.

Shawn Gertsch, senior sales director for IT distributor Securematics, has lived in Historic Uptown — a neighborhood from Fourth to 16th streets and from Fifth Avenue N to Ninth or 12th Avenue N — with his wife and kids for nine years. Gertsch, 45, said the Round Lake area has not been historically devoid of crime, though it was improving. Now, he says, he often sees people moving suspiciously between the store and nearby houses, engaging in what he and other residents believe to be drug activity.

Clerks at the store declined to comment. The owner could not be reached.

Officer Jason Deary, who works closely with the Historic Uptown Neighborhood Association, said it does not appear that crime is up in the neighborhood, and there is "no indication that the Snack Shack is involved in any illegal activity."

The city does not compile crime statistics by neighborhood, but Deary has worked as an officer in District 2 for 10 years and refers to data prepared specifically for neighborhood association meetings.

People typically traveling by foot or bicycle are drawn to convenience stores in any neighborhood because they can get cool drinks on a hot day, Deary said. Historic Uptown residents see a lot of strangers coming through the neighborhood, and that can give an impression of increased criminal activity.

People who are paying close attention to suspicious activity might perceive a single burglary as a trend, he said.

Gertsch was so distraught by what he believed to be an uptick in crime that he took the problem to Mayor Bill Foster, who told Deary to step up police activity in Historic Uptown. Foster also spoke at a June 4 neighborhood association meeting, where he praised residents for working diligently with police to curb crime.

After hearing from Foster, the Police Department increased the number of officers in the area who gave out their cellphone numbers to concerned residents. Additionally, the neighborhood association has organized several crime walks to identify problem locations.

These efforts have yielded positive results, Deary said, and there has been a significant decrease in foot and bicycle traffic from people who do not live in the neighborhood.

But some residents think the only way to get rid of the problem is to also get rid of the Snack Shack.

"We want it gone," Chalker, 43, said. "It doesn't fit with the expectations of the neighborhood."

Lauren Carroll can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8913. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenFCarroll.

     
Comments

Sinkhole opens up near Bayfront Health’s Brooksville hospital

BROOKSVILLE — A large sinkhole opened up by Bayfront Health Brooksville hospital in a water retention pond between State Road 50 and the hospital’s parking lot, according to a hospital spokeswoman.The sinkhole poses no threat to hospital buildings, e...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Son tells NC police he found dog leash around neck of strangled Hillsborough developer Bill Bishop

Son tells NC police he found dog leash around neck of strangled Hillsborough developer Bill Bishop

After a prominent Hillsborough County developer died last month in North Carolina, word spread it was a heart attack that claimed his life.But records from that state show the death of William "Bill" Bishop was much more complicated.His 16-year-old s...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Three arrested for street racing after mother fatally struck pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard

Three arrested for street racing after mother fatally struck pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard

TAMPA — An Ohio mother was struck by a speeding car and killed Wednesday while pushing a stroller across Bayshore Boulevard and her 21-month-old daughter was seriously injured, Tampa police said.The two were hit by a northbound car around 11:43 a.m. ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Clearwater deputy fire chief resigns as report on sick leave abuse is released

Clearwater deputy fire chief resigns as report on sick leave abuse is released

CLEARWATER — A months-long probe into abuse of sick leave within the fire department concluded this week with the resignation of a deputy chief and the release of an internal review.The city paid $93,816 in unearned or unauthorized sick time, benefit...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Wrong-way driver, 87, dies in head-on collision, FHP says

Wrong-way driver, 87, dies in head-on collision, FHP says

BROOKSVILLE— An 87-year-old wrong-way driver died Tuesday night when she collided head-on with an oncoming pick-up truck, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place at about 8:50 p.m. on Sunshine Grove Road near Webster Street.Patri...
Updated: 3 hours ago
FDLE: Victim in $480,000 scam is heiress to Wrigley gum fortune

FDLE: Victim in $480,000 scam is heiress to Wrigley gum fortune

A woman state authorities say was scammed out of $480,000 by two of her employees is an heiress to the Wrigley chewing gum fortune.The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed Tuesday that the victim in the case is Helen Rich, 69, formerly Hel...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Carlton: Lowering the American flag for the newly dead at school — again

Carlton: Lowering the American flag for the newly dead at school — again

In a scene repeated at public buildings across the country, the American flag in front of the library outside my office window was lowered to half-staff this week.This time for 10 dead in Texas.In February, the American flag was similarly half-staff ...
Published: 05/23/18
Largo man broke into jewelry store, cut himself on glass and bled all over everything, police say

Largo man broke into jewelry store, cut himself on glass and bled all over everything, police say

A Largo man was arrested Monday after police said he broke into the front door of a jewelry store and stole $10,000 in jewelry, but cut himself in the process and left blood all over the store.Police arrested Jaime Williams, 31, on a charge of burgla...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Police: St. Pete man who pried a safe out of the wall in custody

Police: St. Pete man who pried a safe out of the wall in custody

ST. PETERSBURG — It took more than an hour for a 25-year-old man to break into a restaurant, pry a safe out of the wall, drag it through the back and then wrestle it into his car, according to police.That was last week. Michael Murphy was arrested Tu...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Search underway for North Carolina man missing from Tampa-based Carnival Paradise

Search underway for North Carolina man missing from Tampa-based Carnival Paradise

The U.S. Coast Guard was searching Tuesday for a 50-year-old North Carolina man who reportedly fell off a Tampa-based cruise ship.The Coast Guard Key West received a call from the cruise ship Carnival Paradise about 10 a.m. saying the man, Brian Lamo...
Published: 05/22/18