Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Public safety

Police keeping an eye on crime spike in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Last year, crime in the city dipped nearly 20 percent below the five-year average. Violent crime fell almost 12 percent, while property crime ticked down 3 percent.

"The last three or four years have been very good for crime stats," police Chief Chuck Harmon told community leaders gathered recently for the annual Officer of the Year luncheon.

It's unclear, however, if that downward trend will continue.

Already, police have seen a spike in auto thefts in the first two months of 2013.

There were 162 cars stolen in January and February this year, compared with 110 in the same period last year, according to the department's uniform crime reports. That's a 47 percent increase.

Other types of crime have started to creep up as well. As of the end of February, the city's total crime was up 14.4 percent compared with the same period last year. Within that, violent crime was up 8 percent and property crime was up 15.3 percent.

Harmon and officials at the department are paying close attention.

"I'm not overly concerned at this particular point, but I guess it does concern me a little," the chief said. "If we didn't have last year, these numbers wouldn't look too bad."

Crime is still 2.4 percent below the five-year average for this time of year.

Auto thefts have seen the largest jump by far. And it isn't just regular citizens falling victim. n March, a police officer woke to find his unmarked police car missing from his driveway. Police believe someone broke into the detective's personal vehicle, where they then found keys to the police car. Hours later, officers found the Chevy Impala floating in Lake Maggiore. The contents of the trunk — guns and ammo — were gone.

Police said an anonymous tip led them to the guns a couple days later but, as of yet, no arrests have been made.

Authorities say the recent spike is fueled mainly by people leaving themselves open to crime.

Police said that of the 248 auto thefts between Jan. 1 and March 25, 65 percent of the victims had left their keys in the ignition.

Some cars were stolen when people left their cars running at gas stations, convenience stores and day care centers. Police have now made a push to remind people to keep their cars locked.

Burglaries also are up by about 30 percent. There were 560 through February, compared with 429 in the first two months of 2012. The increase in violent crimes appears to be attributed to slightly more sex crimes — 30 in January and February compared with 21 during the same time in 2012.

The latest statistics are just a snapshot of the beginning of the year, officials said. Harmon stressed that the picture is just starting to form.

"People just need to keep it in perspective," Harmon said. "Two months is not 12 months."

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

Comments
Argument over dog leads to fatal shooting in Polk County

Argument over dog leads to fatal shooting in Polk County

A Fort Meade man was killed Monday night and two others were wounded after Polk County deputies say they approached a man while searching for a lost dog.The shooting occurred around 6:45 p.m. at the home of suspected shooter Charles Peddycoart, at 41...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Safety Harbor fire chief departs: ‘Take pride in the job’

Safety Harbor fire chief departs: ‘Take pride in the job’

SAFETY HARBOR — When Fire Chief Joe Accetta started working at the Safety Harbor Fire Department, Fire Station 53 was a double wide in the middle of a field now home to Mease Countryside Hospital.Now almost four decades of challenges and promotions l...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Deadly Sunday for swimmers in bay area waters

Deadly Sunday for swimmers in bay area waters

Two people drowned and another suffered life-threatening injuries in the waters of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday.Investigators said all three cases appear to be accidents, but the incidents stand as a reminder that summer, with vacation ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Pinellas deputies arrest Mississippi man 31 years after sexual battery

Pinellas deputies arrest Mississippi man 31 years after sexual battery

SEMINOLE — She was 22 when deputies said a man forced her at knifepoint into the woods off Seminole Boulevard and sexually battered her in February 1987.The case went cold, but now the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said it has arrested the man it ...
Published: 06/18/18
Tampa police seek driver who struck pedestrian and drove off

Tampa police seek driver who struck pedestrian and drove off

TAMPA — Police are seeking the public’s help in locating the driver who fatally struck a pedestrian on Sunday night and then drove off.The incident took place at 9:15 p.m. near the intersection of N Nebraska Avenue and E Linebaugh Avenue.No details a...
Published: 06/18/18
St. Petersburg teen, seven months pregnant, dies in Pasco crash

St. Petersburg teen, seven months pregnant, dies in Pasco crash

HUDSON — A 16-year-old St. Petersburg teen who was seven months pregnant was fatally injured in a crash Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The incident took place at 9:11 p.m. on Little Road south of Hudson Avenue. The teen, Emily ...
Published: 06/18/18
Tampa man rescued from near drowning in waters off Whiskey Joe’s

Tampa man rescued from near drowning in waters off Whiskey Joe’s

A Tampa man was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries on Sunday after he was rescued from a near drowning off the shores of Whiskey Joe’s Tampa Bar & Grill, a popular hangout on the beach of the Courtney Campbell Causeway.When police officers a...
Published: 06/18/18
Man caught in rip current, drowns off Lido Beach

Man caught in rip current, drowns off Lido Beach

A man who was swimming off Lido Beach got caught in a rip current and drowned Sunday night.According to the Sarasota Police Department, the unidentified man was swimming with a woman near Big Pass, a boater channel, around 10 p.m. before becoming cau...
Published: 06/18/18
Child, 1, killed in single-car crash in Ruskin

Child, 1, killed in single-car crash in Ruskin

RUSKIN — A 1-year-old child was killed Sunday night and four family members were hospitalized when their vehicle overturned into a ditch.Deputies, responding to the scene after receiving several 911 calls around 6:30 p.m., located the overturned vehi...
Published: 06/18/18
Tampa man drowns in waters near Gandy Bridge

Tampa man drowns in waters near Gandy Bridge

A Tampa man drowned Sunday night in the waters on the Pinellas side of the Gandy Bridge.According to Pinellas County deputies, 28-year-old Cruz Sales-Lopez was swimming with girlfriend Erika Fuentes Ambrosio, 33, near the northwest side of the Gandy ...
Published: 06/18/18