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SHOOTING DEATHS LEAVE FEAR BEHIND

Community leaders ask residents to step up and prevent any more murders in St. Petersburg's Midtown.
 
Published April 10, 2007|Updated April 13, 2007

One neighborhood leader wants to keep closer tabs on kids out on the streets late at night. Another is calling for greater cooperation between the community and police.

And the family of the city's latest homicide victim is struggling to find a place for her four children.

After the killings of two bystanders in the Harbordale neighborhood in Midtown in separate incidents over an 11-day period, community leaders say they're worried by the violence.

They're calling for other residents to step up and prevent yet another murder in Midtown.

Scott Swift, the activity director of the Bartlett Park crime watch and vice president of the neighborhood association, said he is trying to get a list of kids on probation from juvenile justice authorities so residents can report kids who shouldn't be out on the streets so late.

"Only bad things happen on the streets at 12:30 at night," Swift said. "It's a societal problem. . . . The police can only do so much. They can't be everywhere."

Deandre "Squirrel" Brown, 15, was killed around 12:30 a.m. March 24 as he hung out with friends who had been in an earlier fight at a recreation center.

Tracey Walker, 40, was killed Wednesday by a bullet that entered her living room, hitting her in the head. Walker lived at 2635 Sixth Street S, just four blocks from where Deandre was killed.

A gunman walked up to her house around 11:45 p.m. and fired at her son and a couple of friends, who were outside.

He missed them but hit her.

The death of Walker displaced her four children, who are in their late teens and early 20s. Adam Butler, 34, Walker's cousin, said family members are scrambling to find places for them to live.

"We're still dealing with the loss," Butler said. "Everyone's trying to pull energy from somewhere to go on."

Walker's killing had touched a nerve, Butler said: "People in the community are concerned about the violence that's going on in the community."

Barbara Heck, a Snell Isle resident and the president off the Council of Neighborhood Associations, said that a killing anywhere in the city should concern every resident.

"What affects one neighborhood affects us all," Heck said. "It's going to take all of us working together to resolve this."

Police arrested the two young men accused of Deandre's shooting just days after the attack. Sgt. Mike Kovacsev, the head of the homicide unit, said police were searching for witnesses who may have seen the gunman who killed Walker.

Bill Proffitt, a police spokesman, said the department spent more investigative resources on homicide investigations than on perhaps any other cases.

"The location where they occur has no bearing on the resources we expend," Proffitt said. "We try and close every case."

But there are limits to what police can do.

Mike Tobias, 46, a board member of the Campbell Park Neighborhood Association, said more residents need to get involved in the crime watch and similar activities.

"When I first moved here (two years ago), my neighbors around me said they just don't get involved, Tobias said. "That's condoning it by lack of action. ... The community needs to take responsibility"

Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.