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Skateboard fans kept in line

Police mostly used diplomacy, but one skateboarder was chased four blocks and caught.

With ESPN's X Trials in town over the weekend, police strived to protect businesses from skateboard damage, but also to make sure skateboard fans felt welcome.

Their method: a few hundred fliers and a lot of diplomacy.

Police issued about 250 verbal warnings to skateboarders asking them to abide by the city's no-skateboarding rule in downtown St. Petersburg, said police spokesman Rick Stelljes. Police also distributed 300 to 400 fliers informing people of the ban and offering suggestions on where to practice maneuvers.

"Our goal was to make the X Trials a successful event because we welcome them to St. Petersburg," Stelljes said. "But our goal also was to minimize the damage that we had previously experienced."

About 10 skateboarders received citations. Their skateboards were confiscated and will be returned after they perform 10 hours of community service.

"We only gave a citation when we absolutely had to," Stelljes said. "In every case, we tried to give a warning."

The worst skateboarding incident occurred Saturday when a skateboarder tried to escape police officers. The chase, which lasted about four blocks, ended when officers riding a golf cart caught the skateboarder, who was a juvenile, Stelljes said.

"He got 50 hours of community service," Stelljes said. "He had to tire out eventually."

When the X Trials came to town two years ago, city officials temporarily relaxed the no-skateboarding rule in downtown St. Petersburg to be hospitable. But some businesses complained that the skateboarders caused thousands of dollars in damage.

"We think the X Trials are really good for St. Petersburg," Stelljes said. "The whole goal was to provide a place for the kids to watch the pros, and at the same time minimize possible property damage while making sure folks and their kids felt welcome."

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