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In Tampa, police calls drop, but shootings tick up amid coronavirus

Since March 14, the city has seen 10 shootings and three homicides, Police Chief Brian Dugan said in a news conference Tuesday. The violence, centered in east Tampa, has proliferated despite social distancing efforts due to the pandemic.

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TAMPA — Despite most of the city being shut down and local residents remaining in their homes to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Tampa police have seen an alarming rise in gun violence.

Since March 14, police have logged 10 shootings and three homicides, Chief Brian Dugan said in a Tuesday afternoon news conference. The violence is centered in east Tampa. It has risen even as police calls for service have dwindled.

State Rep. Dianne Hart and City Councilman Orlando Gudes joined Dugan in the police department’s east Tampa district office to call on local residents to help officers tamp down the crime.

“At this point, I’m not sure how we can get this under control,” Hart said. “All I can say is it must stop.”

They alluded to there being a lack of cooperation from some in the community.

“I don’t want to hear about ‘stop snitching,’" Gudes said. “Because when it happens to your family, you want somebody snitching.”

The murdered victims include Talance Callins, 18, who was shot March 20 as he drove along E 18th Avenue before crashing into a tree. The next night, officers were called to a report of gunfire in Tampa Park Apartments, where they found 27-year-old Devante’ Brown shot. He later died at a hospital.

Talance Callins, 18, was fatally shot March 20 in Tampa. [Tampa Police Department] [Tampa Police Department]
Devante' Brown, 27, was fatally shot March 21 in Tampa. [Tampa Police Department] [Tampa Police Department]

The other homicide occurred the afternoon of March 19 in the 3400 block of 15th Street, where a man was found shot. He also died at a hospital. The victim’s name in that case has not been released.

No specific suspects have been named in any of the three cases.

Victims in all of the recent shootings are black, the chief said. They were as young as 16 and as old as 38.

Investigators believe some of the violence has spilled over into the jurisdiction of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

Asked if the surge in crime might be related to gang activity, Dugan classified the situation as conflict arising from “neighborhood beefs."

“We don’t really have a gang problem, per se,” Dugan said. “It’s a neighborhood thing.”

He speculated that since nightclubs and other gathering places are closed, it might be easier for feuding parties to find each other in their own neighborhoods.

Police commanders have walked the neighborhoods to talk with residents and to get a sense of what the problems are.

“If you don’t want to get directly involved, just tell us where the guns are, so we can get the guns off the street,” Dugan said. “I’m making a plea to you that this has to stop. The violence out there, it has been crazy.”

Anyone with information about any of the recent shootings is asked to contact the Tampa Police Department at (813) 276-3200. Information can also be provided anonymously through Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay at 1 (800) 873-TIPS (8477).

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