Saturday, April 21, 2018
Public safety

New police unit in St. Petersburg will focus on crime patterns

ST. PETERSBURG — A new squad of police officers focused on tackling crime patterns and neighborhood outreach soon will be hitting the streets.

The new unit — which has yet to be named — will zero in on crime prevention, according to a memo obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.

It will be made up of seven officers, a detective and a sergeant and will officially launch Monday, according to Assistant Chief David DeKay.

The unit, which will be under the direction of acting Maj. Paul McWade, will do everything from attending neighborhood meetings to addressing short-term crime sprees.

"They'll be citywide, responding to patterns or needs," DeKay said. "We're not consolidating anything. We're not replacing anything. We'll be kind of supporting those efforts already in place."

Some of those things already are done by community police officers. But the new unit is designed to respond quickly to issues, such as if a rash of burglaries pops up in a certain neighborhood.

DeKay said the idea for the squad came from Chief Chuck Harmon, who was out of the office and unavailable for comment.

Earlier this year, the chief said he was keeping an eye on a recent uptick in property crimes. Statistics show that after several years of declines, those are up, especially auto thefts.

"I don't want to speak for the chief, but I suspect he was thinking along those lines when he was considering doing this unit," DeKay said.

The creation of the new unit coincides with changes to another specialized squad at the department: street crimes.

Street crimes will downsize from three squads to two, officials said. In fact, two of the officers from street crimes are going to be in the new crime prevention unit. Others in the new unit come from patrol, community policing and vice and narcotics.

McWade said officials were looking for outgoing officers who know how to work with people. They also will work closely with detectives.

"It just gives us a group of officers we can quickly allocate if something comes up," McWade said.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643.

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