TAMPA — Tampa police Chief Mary O’Connor will host a community forum on Friday in one of the city’s neighborhoods most affected by gun violence.
The hourlong community forum, which is open to the public, is set for 6 p.m. and will be held in the parking lot of the East Side Deli at 3402 N 15th St. in East Tampa’s Ybor Heights neighborhood.
A Tampa police news release calls the forum “an open discussion with residents on how the department is addressing the gun violence in our communities.” Community leaders, law enforcement partners, faith-based leaders and elected officials will attend.
“We look at this opportunity as a ‘Community Roll Call,’ a larger version of the Front Porch Roll Call program we currently offer,” O’Connor said in a statement about the event posted on the department’s web page. The post notes that the location of the forum is in a “violent crime hot spot” included in a crime heat map the department released earlier this month.
The forum location is not far from the scenes of two gun-related homicides that happened June 6 in broad daylight roughly two miles apart. Two men were killed and a 15-year-old boy was seriously injured in what police said were two unrelated shootings.
The next day, O’Connor held a news conference to provide updates on the cases and once again urged the community to help quell the violence. As she spoke, the neighborhood crime heat map sat on a nearby easel.
Of the many possible reasons for the rise in summer violence, the ease of access to guns is one that cannot be ignored, especially when those guns are then flaunted in videos posted to social media, O’Connor said at the news conference.
“These were not random incidents, and we’re here today to amplify the message that this cannot continue,” O’Connor said as civic and criminal justice leaders stood behind her. “We as a community have to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them to begin with.”
By that point in 2022, the chief said, police had investigated reports of 78 guns stolen from unlocked vehicles.