ST. PETERSBURG — In view of two recent deaths due to gun violence in the community, Mayor Rick Kriseman took to the streets of St. Petersburg to convey the simply message: enough is enough.
Along with residents, city leaders and members of the police department, the mayor marched down Central Avenue on Fri., Dec. 18 to raise awareness to the shootings and deaths by firearms, and encouraged the community to speak out in “one very clear, loud voice” that gun violence in unacceptable.
Kriseman stated that it was only one of many steps that need to be taken to bring an end to the violence, and hopes that policies he has in place will help make a difference in curtailing the violence.
“We’ve got a number of policies that we’ve got in place,” Kriseman stated. “We’re working with the school system; we’re investing in summer jobs and jobs in general for kids. We are certainly working to attract businesses that are going to create those jobs.”
Above all, he underscored that ending gun violence must be a community-wide effort, and cannot be something that the city government or the police department do on their own.
In separate incidents within a couple of days, local youths Tyler Lord and Gabriel Wallace, both 17, were fatally shot just a few blocks apart. That makes six young people gunned down within the last six weeks.
“Enough violence is enough violence,” the mayor said simply. “It needs to end. One homicide is one too many.”
Assistant Chief of Police Luke Williams noted that it’s encouraging for the police department to know it has community support.
“We’ve always had a very good working relationship with the community,” Williams said. “We know we have that, but sometimes it’s a little silent. I think the focus that we should have now is that as a community and as a police department and as a city, we all can come together and accomplish great things.”
Williams encourages residents to take an active role in protecting their neighborhoods by calling in tips, and they can do so through the department’s website or by calling (727) 893-7780, and remain anonymous.
“It takes an entire community to address issues and have the positive impact on what’s happening,” Williams pointed out.
Gun violence is not only a city problem, the mayor explained in addressing the crowd, but also a national problem. And within St. Pete, it cannot only be south St. Pete or north St. Pete, but the entire city must come together to help put an end to the violence.
“It’s because of people like you who are here with us today,” Kriseman said, “who care about this community as much as you all do, and you’ve demonstrated how much you care by being here with us today and by speaking out loudly. By speaking out in one loud voice that’s it’s enough. Enough!”
Eddie Pelham, who served over 25 years in Florida state prison for violent crimes, founded Moving Forward With A Purpose, Inc., an organization that helps at-risk youths. He had his own perspective on violent crimes.
“I made some bad decisions in my life when I was 15, 16 years old, and I spent over 25 years of my life in prison for bad decisions. Don’t make a bad decision,” Pelham implored the crowd. “One bad decision can cause you a lifetime of pain.”
He stressed the importance of the need for mentors in the city, saying we need “good men, upstanding men, to teach our young men how to be men.”
Kriseman explained that city hall will do anything it can to address the root causes of the problem of violence, but effective solutions cannot be merely “window dressing” or quick fixes, of which St. Pete has been guilty in the past.
“That doesn’t benefit anybody,” he said, “because that’s been our history here. The fixes we do, they’ve got to be for the long term. They’ve got to be sustainable. Giving people a second chance and being a second chance city is who we need to be, because people need a second chance. Everybody deserves a second chance.”
To reach Frank Drouzas, email firstname.lastname@example.org