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Marina operator tells of gunfire

Enclosed in the letter was a bullet.

Kevin Kelly, dockmaster at The Harborage at Bayboro marina, included it in his letter to Police Chief Ernest Curtsinger to make his point: The area along Third Street S needs better police protection.

"Today we have had almost two hours of what sounds like a war zone of constant gunfire from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. We are talking about over 100 shots fired in a two-hour period," according to the letter, dated a week ago.

"We called the Police Department to see if you could get several cars into the area to regain control and let your presence be felt. The response I got from the dispatcher was, "We'll see if we can get a car down there.'

"

Wendell Creager, police spokesman, said late Thursday afternoon that a quick check of police records didn't show a dispatch to the marina's offices at 1110 Third St. S. Neither have there been any similar calls to the address during the last few months, Creager said after quickly reviewing computer dispatch records.

Creager said the Police Department was taking the incident seriously and would try to determine whether any such call was received and how it was handled.

"If we didn't respond, I'm sure the chief is going to say, "Why in the hell didn't we?'

" Creager said.

In a brief telephone interview Thursday, Kelly said his letter was an attempt to draw attention to the problem, not criticize the Police Department.

"I think we need to give the chief a chance to react," Kelly said.

Kelly wrote that the bullet enclosed in the letter "hit our building near one of our employees." The Harborage has more than $20-million invested in a four-block area around the marina, and the situation is costing the marina money, Kelly wrote.

"I have had customers falling to the ground as they are walking up to the marina today with each outbreak of gunfire," according to the letter. "They are questioning us as to what is going on and when is St. Petersburg going to get control of this neighborhood."

Creager said he would contact the marina operators to try to get more information from them so he could try to track down their call. Then he would search the tape-recorded calls the Police Department received and try to locate the call from the marina. Then he would determine what happened with the complaint, he said.

The Police Department, Creager said, also would look into the broader problems in the neighborhood.

"When we receive a letter like this, we're certainly going to investigate," Creager said.

The Harborage is a 235-slip marina, and has ship storage and sailboat and power boat sales. It opened in 1988.

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