Saturday, December 16, 2017
News Roundup

St. Petersburg urges gun owners to secure their weapons, offers free gun locks as an incentive

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman and Police Chief Tony Holloway on Friday announced a new effort to stem gun violence by urging gun owners to store their weapons more securely, especially in their cars.

"As a legal gun owner, it is important that you do your part to ensure that guns are stored safely, and kept out of the hands of children and criminals," Kriseman and Holloway said in a letter addressed: "Dear Legal Gun Owner."

Holloway cited statistics showing that, of the 293 guns stolen in the city last year, 155 were taken from cars. He said that in some instances people were taking stolen guns and trading them for drugs.

From Dec. 27 through Feb. 21, Holloway said, between 35 and 40 St. Petersburg police officers worked on a new neighborhood team that focused on illegal guns and stolen cars. The group recovered 36 stolen cars and 11 stolen guns, he said. They made 188 arrests, leading to 193 felony charges and 152 misdemeanors.

Holloway said a multi-agency auto theft task force, which was implemented across the area last year and included the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and the Tampa Police Department, will soon ramp up again to combat the rash of stolen vehicles.

The chief stressed that car and gun owners must act responsibly, a common refrain in news conferences about crime for much of the last year.

"If people just slow down for half a second, they could help us reduce crime in our community," Holloway said.

As of Friday morning, Holloway said, 99 guns had been reported stolen in St. Petersburg this year. Seventy-six of those were taken in one case when a landscaper, Gregory Allen Phillips, 26, raided the home of a sick client, police said. Officers have recovered nine of those 76 guns, and 12 overall in 2016, according to Holloway.

The letter to gun owners will go to stores that sell guns, gun shows and gun ranges. Kriseman said there would be no direct mail effort, noting that the state Legislature has blocked access to gun owner lists.

If a gun owner fails to lock and secure his or her weapon safely, and that gun is stolen and used in a crime, Kriseman said the owner should face some kind of punishment like a fine. But he said a state "preemption" law prohibits him from implementing an ordinance like that locally.

"There's a huge sense of frustration," the mayor said.

As an incentive to owners, the city said it will offer free gun locks and advice on how to safely store guns and ammunition. To acquire a lock, gun owners should call the police department's Crime Prevention Unit at (727) 893-7128. Police are also offering free steering wheel locks for drivers.

The gun locks cost $1.85 each, Holloway said, and the first 200 were donated by a police uniform and equipment supply company.

Also Friday, city officials formally introduced Kenny Irby as St. Petersburg's new Community Intervention Director.

Earlier this year, Kriseman pledged $1 million to help young black menescape violence and poverty following a bloody end to 2015 that saw eight people killed in as many weeks.

Irby is a pastor and formerly worked at the Poynter Institute, which owns the Tampa Bay Times. He has contributed for decades to youth and community outreach efforts.

Times staff writer Charlie Frago contributed to this report. Contact Zachary T. Sampson at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804. Follow @ZackSampson.

Comments
Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

LAKE BUENA VISTA — There were a lot of reasons the Rays didn’t start the process of trading some of their bigger-name, higher-paid players at last week’s winter meetings.Most obvious was them not finding the just-right deal to move closer Alex Colome...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Jones: Tony Dungy didn’t leave the Bucs on the clearance rack

Jones: Tony Dungy didn’t leave the Bucs on the clearance rack

It is and always will be the greatest debate in Tampa Bay sports history.Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy?You don’t even need to say anything more than that. Bucs fans already know what you’re talking about.Gruden or Dungy?Who was most responsible for the on...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? Why the debate rages on

Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? Why the debate rages on

TAMPA — Bucs coach Jon Gruden did not win the Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s team. Don’t believe me? Ask Dungy. "It wasn’t. They did a great job. They took it and tweaked it," Dungy said. "The same way I got a great (Colts) tea...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
She was about to celebrate her 94th birthday — and ended up in the back of a police car

She was about to celebrate her 94th birthday — and ended up in the back of a police car

Two days before her 94th birthday, Juanita Fitzgerald was arrested and hauled off to jail.The Eustis woman’s crime?She was being evicted and had fallen behind on her rent, WFTV 9 News reported. Instead of vacating her home at the National Church Resi...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

A Democratic candidate hoping to flip a hotly contested congressional seat in Kansas has dropped out of the race after allegations that she sexually harassed a male subordinate resurfaced amid her campaign.Andrea Ramsey, 57, who was running to unseat...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Forecast: Weekend brings sunny skies and warmer temperatures

Forecast: Weekend brings sunny skies and warmer temperatures

After a cold front across Tampa Bay, temperatures are on the rise this weekend, said WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Ric Kearbey.href="http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2015/graphics/macros/css/base.css"> 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-ar...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

TAMPA — Three firefighters were injured early Saturday morning battling a fire at a W Waters Avenue strip mall, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.Firefighters said the two-alarm blaze appeared to come from a nail salon at the plaza on 2202 W Waters Ave....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

DENVER — There might be one team in hockey hotter than the Lightning.It is Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, Syracuse.The Crunch had won nine straight heading into Friday’s game against Providence. Why is this important? While the AHL is a developmental lea...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Sometime soon, members of the Florida House will be asked to consider a potential solution for bullying in public schools. It’s a dubious idea based on the premise that students should flee their tormenter, and use voucher funds to attend a private s...
Published: 12/16/17
Howard Altman: Military-themed gifts for your holiday shopping needs

Howard Altman: Military-themed gifts for your holiday shopping needs

The season of giving is upon us, so here’s a selection of military-themed gifts for the folks on your Christmas and Hannukah lists.Drink up: American Freedom Distillery is a veteran-owned maker of artisan whiskeys, rums, vodkas and gins located in St...
Updated: 22 minutes ago