Plan unveiled to prevent Hillsborough violence

'Safe and Sound' revealed most violent areas

Students in Hillsborough County are more likely to feel safe in school than when they leave or when they're at home. Such are the findings of a study released by a task force geared at preventing violence in the community.

The Violence Prevention Collaborative is a group formed by Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who created the program following the horrific student massacre in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.  

"Our goal is to prevent violence before it happens," Beckner said. The group started its research a year ago, and Monday revealed its findings in a strategic plan called Safe and Sound Hillsborough.

The VPC displayed maps of the Hillsborough area color coded to show the areas with the highest crime potential.  Called "heat maps," they are designed to show where the most resources are needed to prevent crimes.

"Everyone's not looking solely to law enforcement to handle the violence in our community," said Jane Castor, Tampa police chief.

Castor said by including more in the community like schools and churches there's a better chance to prevent crimes from happening.

"We really haven't had that horrific crime in our schools that has plagued many communities in the nation," said Robert Blount, president of Abe Brown Ministries.  

"[Bring] in key players so we can prevent that from happening here in Tampa," Blount said.

Annette Jenkins, a community volunteer who lives in one of the so-called hotspots for potential crimes, said she hopes more money is spent finding after school activities for young people.

"We're just letting them run footloose and fancy free," Jenkins said.

Angela Sherry said she was encouraged by the Safe and Sound program. The grandmother takes care of her children and her grandkids and would like to see more security for children.

"So it can be safe for them to walk home and go to school where they got to worry about being kidnapped," Sherry said.

Beckner will present the group's findings to the county commission next week. He's hoping for significant funding to help further the project.  

The VPC is also depending upon help from Hillsborough County Schools, the State Attorney's Office, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, and Tampa Police.

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