ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tragic and unnecessary, those are the words community leaders are using to describe a spike in gun violence in Tampa Bay. Community leaders came together Tuesday to call attention to the number of homicides on both sides of the bay and to brainstorm solutions to save lives.
“St. Pete is in a state of emergency and we need all hands on deck and we need to do something about that. Right now,” said Maress Scott.
Scott said he gets sick to his stomach thinking about all the families, like his own, now dealing with unimaginable tragedy. Two years ago, his 20-year-old son Marquis Scott was shot and killed while riding his bicycle in St. Petersburg.
“I had just given him the bicycle he was murdered on,” he said with emotion.
Since January, 28 people have been shot and killed in St. Petersburg. That number is well above the city’s average of 20 per year, and there are still two months left in 2021.
“It is a crisis. There’s no question about it,” Pastor Louis Murphy Sr. added.
The numbers are mostly higher across the Tampa Bay area. ABC Action News checked in with Pasco County, Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, Polk County, and Tampa. Tampa and Polk County saw the largest rise in homicides.
Here’s how the numbers either increased or decreased between 2019 and 2020:
- Tampa - 2019: 31 homicides, 2020: 41 homicides (+10)
- Polk County – 2019: 10 homicides, 2020: 22 homicides (+12)
- Pasco County – 2019: 13 homicides, 2020: 14 homicides (+1)
- Hillsborough County- 2019: 32 homicides, 2020: 37 homicides (+5)
- Pinellas County – 2019: 7 homicides, 2020: 6 (-1)
Some agencies also sent ABC Action News the 2021 homicides (year to date) so far. In Hillsborough County, they’ve already matched the 2020 homicide number with 37 since January. Tampa Police Department has also tracked 37 homicides since January.
Now, community leaders are calling for change. More than a dozen community members gathered at the Pinellas County Urban League Tuesday morning to implore state leaders like Congressman Charlie Crist for funding, resources, and legislation which would help to close loopholes that they say allow kids to access guns.
Pastor Louis Murphy Sr. shared with the group that his grandson recently give him some eye-opening insight.
“He said ‘Papa, it is so easy for kids to get guns today and a lot of kids from school have guns,” he told the group.
Scott said he’ll do anything it takes to save another parent from the heartache he lives with every day. He started an organization called Quis for Life in his son’s honor.
Right now, he’s focused on having people in St. Pete sign the Black St. Pete pledge to choose a violence-free lifestyle. Scott is also working to bring his message into schools.