1. Opinion

Time for community to stand up for what's right

Published Apr. 20, 2013

In recent weeks, there have been at least two incidents in St. Petersburg where people used their vehicles as weapons in attempted assaults on law enforcement officers.

That the incidents occurred is appalling.

The actions of a select few displayed blatant disregard for authority, coupled with the apathy for human life.

But what really gives me pause is the deafening silence from the community where these incidents occurred.

Certain community leaders and groups that tend to be very vocal when police actions have been questionable are nowhere to be found.

Had the tables been turned and an officer's car struck a juvenile, the community would be up in arms with complaints about excessive use of force or police brutality, or both.

Though such scenarios do exist, they don't appear to come into play in the instances mentioned above.

Is this the new normal?

Late last month, an officer was badly injured in a crash on 54th Avenue S on his way to assist a chase that started after a suspect intentionally swerved into oncoming traffic and rammed a cruiser searching for a stolen car.

A day later, an officer's unmarked vehicle was stolen from the officer's driveway. The vehicle was later found in Lake Maggiore. A .45-caliber Glock handgun, an AR-15 Colt rifle, ammunition and a police radio were missing, but were later retrieved.

Then just last week, police said a teenager behind the wheel of a stolen car accelerated the vehicle toward them in an attempt to avoid arrest.

Are we to remain silent, until they come after us?

I was brought up believing that we live and abide by a social contract.

Under the social contract, there's an unspoken, unwritten code of behavior that all law-abiding residents live by. When others violate the code, the community must work diligently to correct actions that could cause chaos.

I'm certain that the innocent neighbors, who had to dodge bullets from guns fired by the police, agree.

Until we as residents stand together and declare these actions are unacceptable — even if it means turning in a neighbor — then we send the message that criminal behavior is fine.

So where do we begin?

Stepping forward to lend a hand is a good start. Today marks the beginning of National Volunteer Week and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County ( bbbspc.org) is seeking volunteers. Reaching our youth before they find trouble is the key.

• • •

The city is joining efforts with businesses, property owners and neighborhood leaders in hopes of creating an improvement plan for the 34th Street S corridor.

The goal is to target economic development, transportation, streetscape, land use and zoning, and marketing.

A kickoff meeting is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the St. Petersburg College Allstate Center at 3200 34th St. S.

A website has been created to keep the public informed throughout the 34th Street S planning process, stpete.org/34, and a survey has been created to gain feedback about the district.

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Sandra J. Gadsden can be reached at sgadsden@tampbay.com or (727) 893-8874. Follow @StPeteSandi on Twitter.


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