St. Pete police to create new unit to fight neighborhood crime

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - If you come to the Lakewood Estates neighborhood looking to commit a crime, odds are Judy Ellis will see you.

"When I retired, I found I had time to do all kinds of stuff, and I decided I would become a professional pest. And I think I've done very well," said Ellis.

Ellis heads up the neighborhood crime watch in Lakewood Estates.  She says working together with other residents has helped keep thieves away.

"To some extent, word does get out this is not a good place to go for the pickings," said Ellis.

St. Petersburg police hope to work more with neighborhood groups like Judy's and do a better job tracking crime patterns. That's why they are creating a new crime prevention unit.

The unit will have nine officers who can quickly react to neighborhood crime sprees, such as a rash of break-ins.

"If we have a pattern of that and they go through 20 houses in one night, this unit could go out there and start talking to residents.  Remind them if they have seen suspicious people in the neighborhood.  Remind them to close your garage doors, lock your car doors at night, don't leave things visible in the car," said assistant chief David DeKay.

Judy says in the past, police communication about neighborhood crimes hasn't been the best. And this new unit might solve that problem.

"Somebody who responds to your house about a break-in probably doesn't know about somebody else who responded to one just like it over there, unless it happened the same time," said Ellis.

Police say this unit is still a work in progress.  It doesn't even have an official name yet.

But the officers will be in place in neighborhoods all around St. Petersburg starting next week.

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