ST. PETE, Fla. (WFTS) — Kyle Holbrook has lost 46 friends and family members to gun violence. In a quest to honor them, he's picking up his weapon of choice, paints and brushes.
"I've felt like my friends or people close to me that have been victims of gun violence, they haven't gotten the respect or dignity or attention that they deserve because something else happens and people forget," he said.
So, Holbrook decided to use his talents to give them the attention they deserve. Holbrook is traveling the country, painting peace signs in cities plagued by gun violence.
"The purpose is so people can, you know, have the issue of gun violence to the forefront of their mind you as they're visiting," he said. "Doing the peace symbol makes us focus on humans, and investing in humans. Let's get some help, some support, some economic resources, some mentorship, some apprenticeships, all of which are some solutions."
Holbrook completed one of those murals in St. Pete Wednesday.
"I've been coming to St. Pete since I was a child. I have several friends that live there. I'm aware of all the gun violence that has been going on there and in Tampa," he added.
St. Pete Police Chief Anthony Holloway said last year was tough on the city, but there are positive signs for the future.
He said Holbrook's mural is a message to everyone that we need to stop the violence.
"I think it's a great message that we send out there. A lot of people think the best way to solve a conflict or argument is to grab a gun," he said. "And just like we tell everybody, all the big issues when you grab that gun, and when you pull that trigger, and that bullet leaves that gun, you can no longer say I'm sorry. You kill someone, you affect that family, even if you hurt that person, you affect that family, and then the person that fire the weapon also affects his or herself and their family also."
The mural is a welcome sight to the Chief, who said these messages do work.
"The murals. right. Enough is enough, but not just in this community, any community," said the Chief.
Last year, St. Pete police worked 21 homicides. Chief Holloway said violent crime is currently down by 10%. St. Pete has worked nine homicides this year. Eight of those homicides were gun violence.
Chief Holloway said his department has taken steps to curb gun violence as well.
"We put a team in place that anytime a gun is used whether shooting into a car, a vehicle or someone threatened, we got detectives following up those cases right away instead of saying, 'well, we'll get to that later.' We're on those within the next 48 to 72 hours."
The team is made up of a Sergeant and five detectives. It officially launched in May.
But the chief said there's still more work to be done; like making sure people secure their guns better. SPPD recovered 33 stolen guns last month. 21 came from unlocked cars.
"I would like to see (violent crime) down more than that because 10% is a good starting point. But we need a better starting point," Chief Holloway said.
Holbrook's mural is on Arlington Avenue, just down the street from the police station. He's brought the project to 42 states with plans to eventually hit all 50.
"It's really about reaching cities that can use the message and also have street art areas where we can utilize the selfie culture to further spread the message," Holbrook said.
You can learn more about Kyle Holbrook and the mural project sponsored by MLK Mural here.