Sunday, January 21, 2018
Public safety

St. Petersburg police crack down on synthetic marijuana sales (video)

ST. PETERSBURG — Police are cracking down on the illegal sale of synthetic marijuana, known as spice.

After seeing a dramatic rise in the sale of the drug, which St. Petersburg banned more than a year ago, undercover and uniformed officers launched an effort to target individuals and businesses still selling spice.

In the last six months of 2013, police averaged 39 synthetic marijuana-related arrests per month. That average is now 63.

They focused on convenience stores, which police say sell packets marked "not for human consumption" as a way to try to skirt the law. Dealers then roll the contents of those packets into joints that sell for $1 apiece in places like Williams Park in downtown St. Petersburg.

Police arrested 20 people and fined two convenience stores in Tuesday's sting. Frog Eyes Smoke Shop, 6040 Fourth St. N, received a $21,500 fine and Mario's Meat Market, 3701 Fifth Ave. N, was fined $23,000.

The City Council banned the drug in April 2013, meaning those caught with it are subject to an ordinance violation that comes with a $500 fine for each packet sold and, potentially, an arrest.

Police displayed the drugs they found, in brightly colored foil packets marked "Joker," "Wolf Pack" and "Flamingo" at a news conference Wednesday. They said the substance sells well among St. Petersburg's homeless population.

"Because of the inexpensive nature of being able to sell it or to buy it, it's become a drug of choice for individuals who might be down on their luck or in bad situations," Assistant Chief Luke Williams said.

Officers spent Wednesday afternoon handing out fliers warning of the drug's unpredictable nature in Williams Park, where more than half of the city's spice arrests are made.

"This stuff really messes up people," Sgt. Randy Morton told a group of men near a bus stop as he handed them a flier. "We don't want to see people degrading themselves with this stuff."

The men said they knew the park was a hot spot for spice, but weren't sure a flier would help change that.

"People are going to do what they're going to do anyway," said Douglas Stevens, 24.

Officers talked of extreme aggressiveness, agitation and even super-human strength among spice users. Morton said suspects often behave like those he's seen on crack cocaine.

"You have a person that's agitated, angry and he may become violent during the arrest," Morton said.

As Morton walked between bus stops, a call came through the radio at his shoulder. An undercover officer at the park spotted a man wanted for sale and possession of controlled substances. When officers yelled, he took off on his bike. When they caught him, they found $729 in his pocket.

After his arrest, Officer Barry Books went back to handing out the fliers. He asked people milling around the park to give it to someone they know who might be using spice.

"Can you help us out?" he said.

Contact Claire Wiseman at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman.

Comments
Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

WEEKI WACHEE — The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday investigated the death of a Hillsborough County man in the Eagle’s Nest, an underwater network of caves where at least 11 others have died since 1981.Even experienced divers have lost th...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Bicyclist dead after being hit by car in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — A bicyclist is dead after he was hit by a car just before 10 a.m. Saturday morning, police said.Police were still investigating the crash in the 8700 block of 49th Street N late Saturday morning.Police shut down northbound 49th Street...
Published: 01/20/18

Motorcyclist crashes into Subaru while trying to flee Pinellas deputies

CLEARWATER — A 21-year-old fleeing from deputies on a motorcycle crashed into car while speeding away from a cruiser Friday, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Michael Brown, of Clearwater, was recklessly driving his 2016...
Published: 01/20/18

Clearwater man in critical condition after medical episode while driving

DUNEDIN — A 60-year-old Clearwater man who likely had a medical episode while driving is now in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after rolling over his car, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. A Largo police off...
Published: 01/20/18

Four people linked to Tampa carjacking captured hours later

TAMPA — It took officers just 27 minutes Friday night to capture four people who they said stole a car from its owner.The incident started outside the Ybor Coffee Shop at 5:45 a.m. A group approached the driver as he sat in his 2010 Toyota Corolla. T...
Published: 01/19/18

Florida National Guard soldier killed, five injured in Sebring crash

SEBRING — A soldier with the Florida National Guard was killed and five others were hospitalized after a multi-vehicle crash on Friday, officials said.The crash took place at about 1 p.m. at the intersection of U.S. 27 and Hammock Road.The soldiers ...
Published: 01/19/18
Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

NEW PORT RICHEY — Two New Port Richey men face charges after Pasco County deputies say they stole about $11,000 worth of cellphones and cellphone equipment at a Metro PCS store on State Road 54.Robert Jackson and Ronald Hartshorn were arrested Wednes...
Published: 01/19/18
Autopsy: drugs found in MLB star Roy Halladay’s system after plane crash

Autopsy: drugs found in MLB star Roy Halladay’s system after plane crash

When former Major League Baseball pitcher Roy Halladay died in a plane crash in November, he had amphetamines, morphine and the sleep aid zolpidem in his system, according to an autopsy report. Halladay, 40, died from blunt force trauma with drownin...
Published: 01/19/18
Former youth football president accused of stealing $29,000 from Pinellas league

Former youth football president accused of stealing $29,000 from Pinellas league

PALM HARBOR — The former president of a local youth football league is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the group and using it in part to buy a mobile home.According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, deputies on Tuesday arrested L...
Published: 01/19/18
Rapper Kodak Black arrested in Florida on grand theft, other charges

Rapper Kodak Black arrested in Florida on grand theft, other charges

FORT LAUDERDALE — Rapper Kodak Black has been ordered held without bail in Florida on seven felony charges that include child neglect and drug possession.The Broward Sheriff’s Office arrested the 20-year-old rapper, whose real name is Dieuson Octave,...
Published: 01/19/18