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Times staff,

If you have a news tip, please call our City Desk at 727-893-8215.

You can also call one of our county news bureaus directly:

Hernando County: 352-754-6101

Hillsborough County/Tampa: 813-226-3303

North Pinellas County: 727-445-4221

Pasco County: 727-869-6235

On the Web, you can also go to sptimes.com/connect/ for details on other ways to contact us.

E-mail: local@tampabay.com

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  1. For women in the Pinellas County Jail, the Red Tent room offers tears, growth, hope

    Human Interest

    Editor's note: The four-hour Red Tent Project session was recorded. The women's words have been edited for length and clarity.

    LARGO

    Two afternoons a week, after lunch, before laundry duty, a dozen women at the Pinellas County Jail leave their pods and thread down a long, dark corridor — through 10 locked doors, past a guard station, into a space they call the Red Tent Room....

    In the arms of these other women, I am learning to open up. With their help, I am trying to stop hating myself. 

Kavona Lee, shown before she was jailed in Pinellas County on a grand theft conviction
  2. Dunedin woman waits, wonders why Social Security is denied

    News

    DUNEDIN — Gabriela Pezzuti remembers sitting on the balcony of her family's Havana apartment as a child and looking up at the clouds.

    It is one of her few memories of her birthplace, Cuba. She moved to the United States at age 6.

    For the past 60 years, Pezzuti considered herself American: she had Social Security and voter's registration cards. She got a driver's license when she was a teenager. She paid income taxes. Her tax returns show Social Security taxes have been withdrawn from her earnings....

    Gabriela Pezzuti, 65, center, and her daughter, Nina Womack, 22, left, both of Dunedin, say they have been fighting for Pezzuti's rights to Social Security benefits for the last year. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
  3. St. Pete sees demolitions as key to better neighborhoods

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG— Years after a housing bust and crippling recession, the city has started to aggressively demolish the detritus of that era, knocking down vacant, decrepit homes that have become magnets for crime, vagrants and pests.

    Across St. Petersburg in 2014, the city demolished 100 homes, a 28 percent increase over the 78 demolitions completed in the last year of former mayor Bill Foster's term....

  4. Top things to do for Jan. 31

    Events

    Gasparilla Pirate Fest Invasion: Join thousands lining the downtown waterfront around 11:30 a.m. to watch the spectacle as fully-rigged pirate ship Jose Gasparilla sails in. The ship docks and the mayor surrenders the key to the city at about 1 p.m., Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St., Tampa. Then the marauding buccaneers celebrate their successful invasion with a street festival featuring pre and post parade music starting at 10 a.m., Curtis Hixon Park, 600 N Ashley Drive, Tampa. Then the serious business of the day: Tossing thousands of beads to hundreds of thousands of people. The 2015 grand marshals are U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major James C. Faris and actor and TV show host Mario Lopez. The parade steps off at 2 p.m. from Bay to Bay Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard, Tampa. All events are free, $45 reserved parade seating. (813) 251-3378....

    Gasparilla Parade.  Susan Welsh of Ye Loyal Krewe of Grace O'Malley yells to the crowds along Bayshore Boulevard during the Parade of Pirates Saturday (2/7/2004).
  5. St. Petersburg police warn of 'alarming spike' in car thefts and burglaries

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — Car thefts and burglaries have risen dramatically across the city in the last two years and for the most part, police say, kids are behind it.

    In 2014, St. Petersburg police documented 1,418 auto thefts or burglaries, up from 876 in 2012. Officers made 600 arrests for the crimes last year, said Major Paul McWade, including 74 in December alone. Adults are usually the culprits in auto burglaries, he said, but when a car is stolen, 97 percent of the time a juvenile is behind it. In almost all cases, stolen or burglarized cars were left unlocked....

  6. New methodology helps boost Florida consumer confidence index

    Personal Finance

    Florida consumer confidence rose sharply in January, but researchers attributed much of the climb to changes in how survey data was collected.

    The University of Florida report released Friday, which showed confidence rising 6 points to 93.3, was based for the first time ever on a cell phone survey.

    Since the survey began in 1985, researchers had used landlines to contact Floridians, a practice kept in place as cell phones rose in popularity "to maintain an index that reflects changes in consumer attitudes rather than changes in method," said survey director Chris McCarty....

  7. As measles spreads, concern over unvaccinated children does, too

    Health

    TAMPA — If parents refuse to vaccinate their children, Dr. Marcy Solomon Baker politely asks them to find a new pediatrician. She doesn't want their children sitting in the waiting room and putting others at risk.

    Amid the recent measles outbreak, Baker, who works for BayCare Medical Group, has been hearing from parents who want reassurance that policy is still in place.

    " 'You guys don't see unvaccinated kids, right?' " she said, recalling a typical conversation....

  8. Funding for St. Petersburg's proposed new police headquarters mostly comes from other projects

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG— Mayor Rick Kriseman's proposed deal to build a new police headquarters by redirecting $20 million in Penny for Pinellas money will make significant changes to the Penny spending plan, but nonetheless, the administration says it won't mean dramatic cuts in other city projects.

    The reason? City officials say the agreement to build the $70 million facility largely shifts money around and takes advantage of removing from the Penny spending list some projects already completed with other government funds....

    The St. Petersburg Police Department headquarters building at the intersection of First Avenue N and 13th Street. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times (2011)]
  9. 'Aye do' — Tampa couple to wed before Gasparilla Parade

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For one Tampa couple, the 100th Gasparilla Pirate Fest will mark more than just a day of merriment.

    John Mark Wallace, 59, and Jamie Labrecque, 52, will say "I do" Saturday morning outside the Academy of the Holy Names before boarding a parade float as newlyweds. And their ceremony will feature pirates a' plenty.

    Nearly 300 people are expected to attend the bash off Bayshore Boulevard....

    Mark Wallace, center, points to his son-in-law Lee Cook Jr. while sharing laughs with Clarence Prevatt Jr., right, the best man in his wedding during the wedding rehearsal dinner at Love's Artifacts Bar and Grill on 4914 S MacDill Avenue in Tampa on Thursday, January 29, 2015. Mark Wallace a member of Krewe of Rogues and Jamie LaBrecque a member of Krewe Les Belles Femmes will exchange vows before the start of the Gasparilla Pirates Festival near the Academy of Holy Names on Bayshore and MacDill Avenue.
  10. Tampa high school girls arrested in knife fight over boy

    Crime

    TAMPA — Two female students were injured Friday morning at King High School in what school officials believe was a fight over a boy.

    The fight, which broke out at 7:35 a.m. just before the first bell, pitted two 10th grade girls against two 11th grade girls, Hillsborough County schools spokesman Steve Hegarty said. One of the 10th graders had a folding 2-inch knife, and cut both the 11th graders....

  11. Fire destroys mobile home in Lealman

    Fire

    A woman received treatment for smoke inhalation and a mobile home was destroyed Friday morning in a fire in Lealman, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

    Firefighters were called to the Highland Mobile Home Park at 3663 58th Ave. N about 2:23 a.m. The fire ruined one mobile home and damaged two others, according to the Sheriff's Office. Two residents made it out of the fire. One, Laura Duncan, 50, was taken to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg for treatment of smoke inhalation...

  12. Two suspects in custody after Plant City car theft, gunshots start chase that ends in Tampa

    Crime

    TAMPA — A six hour standoff with three law enforcement agencies led to the capture of two suspects Friday morning in north Tampa.

    Police believed the pair stole a car and were somehow involved in a shooting.

    The standoff, which included an armored SWAT van, ended around 7 a.m. when the last suspect not in custody, who had barricaded himself in the attic of a home on Citrus Circle near 46th Street, surrendered to police. ...

    A SWAT team reportedly responded to an apartment complex near 46th Street and Citrus Circle on Friday morning, just south of Busch Blvd. [Bay News 9]
  13. Hillsborough will hold community meetings on discipline

    Blog

    This from the Hillsborough County school district Friday morning:

    Hillsborough County Public Schools will host eight Community Discipline Chats in areas throughout the county for parents and the community to review and provide input on 2014-2015 first semester in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, and alternative to out-of-school suspension data.  ...

  14. Patriots-Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX Scouting Report: And the winner will be …

    Bucs

    Does it feel like you've eaten McDonald's every day for the past two weeks?

    Super Bowl Sunday — finally, mercifully — is almost here. When the Patriots and Seahawks won their conference championships a State of the Union address ago, the table was set for an appetizing finale. For the second straight season, the two best teams in football were going head-to-head. We were going to be talking about superstar players — Tom Brady! Rob Gronkowski! Russell Wilson! Marshawn Lynch! We were going to be reading about legacies. And we were going to be watching sappy Tom Rinaldi ESPN specials....

    On Sunday, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will appear in his record-tying sixth Super Bowl. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson will look to be the first quarterback since Brady to win back-to-back Lombardi trophies. Wilson is 10-0 vs. Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. [Getty Images]
  15. Friday's sports on TV/radio

    TV and Radio

    TODAY

    Autos
    NASCAR Hall of Fame inductions8 p.m.NBCSN
    Boxing
    Lightweights: Dargan vs. Luis9 p.m.ESPN2
    College basketball
    Harvard at Princeton6 p.m.ESPNU
    Women: Florida State at Georgia Tech7 p.m.FSF
    Monmouth at Fairfield8 p.m.ESPNU
    Kent State at Buffalo10 p.m.ESPNU
    College gymnastics
    Georgia at Florida7 p.m.SEC
    College hockey
    North Dakota at Nebraska-Omaha8:30 p.m.CBSSN
    Minnesota at Wisconsin9 p.m.Big Ten
    Golf
    PGA Europe: Dubai Desert Classic5:30 a.m.Golf
    PGA: Phoenix Open3 p.m.Golf
    LPGA: Coates Championship (taped)8 p.m.Golf
    High school hockey
    River Ridge vs. Newsome7 p.m.BHSN
    East Lake vs. Wiregrass Ranch9 p.m.BHSN
    Hockey
    OHL: Erie at Kingston7 p.m.NHL
    NBA
    Mavericks at Heat8 p.m.ESPN
    Bulls at Suns10:30 p.m.ESPN
    NHL
    Sabres at Canucks10 p.m.NHL
    Soccer
    Mexican: Santos at Quertaro8:30 p.m.ESPND
    Mexican: Morelia at Tijuana10:30 p.m.ESPND
    Tennis
    Australian Open (taped)2 p.m.ESPN2
    Australian Open, women's final: S. Williams vs. Sharapova3 a.m....