Electric fence surrounding St. Petersburg lumber store illegal under local law

Electric fence within yards of Gibbs High School

ST. PETERSBURG - After vandals broke into Tibbetts Lumber in St. Petersburg and caused $40,000 in damage to the air conditioning system, management had enough. They leased an electric fence to surround the property hoping some voltage would jolt intruders into changing their plans. Only one problem.

"They put a fence in without a permit. It's illegal," St. Petersburg City Councilman Karl Nurse said.

Nurse opposes changing the law to allow electrified fencing in industrial areas, something Tibbetts Lumber asked the full council to do on Thursday.

Nurse said the fence is in a particularly inappropriate location right alongside the popular Pinellas Trail and Gibbs High School. One St. Petersburg resident told us it makes him nervous.

"Guard dogs I could deal with, but an electric fence I just don't like in our city," Vince Cocks said.
Youtube is full of videos showing mostly young people touching electric fences as a challenge, which suggest local students might try to test the stopping power of the fence.

The fence surrounding Tibbetts Lumber is set a few inches behind a regular chainlink fence, which the company's president Juan Quesada said makes it safe.

"In order to touch it, you actually have to have a very small hand and get through the chain link fence to go grab it. It's not like you can touch it from the outside," Quesada said.

Council member Nurse doesn't like the message an electrified fence sends and thinks a conventional barrier should be enough to protect any property in the city.

"If a 10-foot fence and barbed wire doesn't solve the problem, then we have a police department we have to engage more actively in that," he said.
Turns out the City of St. Petersburg is violating its own law. An electric fence surrounds a water pumping station. Councilman Nurse said that was a result of Homeland Security requirements after the 9/11 attacks.

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