Perceptions may overshadow work of police
Americans have a negative outlook on crime, according to a 2008 Gallup poll, despite declining crime numbers nationwide for the past decade. The report confirms that perception is everything.
St. Petersburg is no different. In spite of a declining crime rate this year (including a 13.1 percent reduction in violent crime in the first seven months of 2008 compared to 2007), public perception of crime soared when a few violent crimes received publicity.
Those crimes prompted police to take steps to identify and arrest those criminals, and to help ease concerns.
Chief Chuck Harmon implemented a preferred arrest policy for all gun-related crimes and a new protocol for handling incidents likely to spawn more neighborhood violence. Most recently, the Police Department started a new initiative called "Community and Police Engagement," or CAPE.
Assistant Chief Luke Williams assigns CAPE officers to resolve recurring crime patterns in a neighborhood.
Williams offers weekly meetings with police managers to ensure accountability and that all department resources are used in a course of action.
The initiative reflects the expanded community policing model that involves the department in problem solving.
CAPE officers arrest criminals, listen to concerns and hopefully ease anxiety about crime.
Recently, these officers have distributed thousands of door-hangers with city service numbers and a Tip Line number (892-5000).
Police want to ease concerns, because even though crime is down, perception is reality.
William Proffitt, St. Petersburg police spokesman