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Mayoral candidates join call to end St. Pete violence

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Posted at 10:42 PM, Oct 19, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — St. Petersburg police say the homicide rate in the city is high, in fact, they've seen more homicides this year than in the last 10 years.

Let's take a look at the numbers:

  • In 2011, there were 21 homicides
  • In 2012 and 2013, there were 15 homicides
  • In 2014, there were 19 homicides
  • In 2015, there were 14 homicides
  • In 2016 and 2017, there were 20 homicides
  • In 2018, there were 21 homicides
  • In 2019, there were 17 homicides
  • In 2020, there were 15 homicides

Currently, St. Pete police say there are 28 homicides this year, and the year isn't over yet. This year's jump has police and community leaders calling for peace.

"Our overall violent crime statistics are down, except for homicide," said St. Petersburg Police Spokesperson Yolanda Fernandez.

They're statistics that represent real people, who have left behind scarred loved ones.

"In the past year, I have lost three cousins to gun violence each under the age of 25," said community advocate Corey Givens Jr.

Givens Jr. says it's a community trauma that's led to a level of desensitization.

"We're so used to going to these marches. We're so used to going to these gun violence memorials that it's just become a part of our everyday life," he said.

So, what can be done? Well, Givens Jr. says change starts with community buy-in.

"The onus is on us to make sure that our children have after-school activities to go to, something productive to keep their time and their hands busy. Making sure there are career and job training programs out there so that folks are resorting to crime and violence to make ends meet," he said.

Republican mayoral candidate Robert Blackmon says he would beef up policing in the short term to curb violence and focus on the next generation in the long term.

"First and foremost, we need to have youth educational opportunities," he said.

It's a sentiment he doubled down on during a mayoral debate Tuesday night.

"That's why I've also pushed for more job programs like after-school and summer jobs for our youths working in our parks, a mentorship program where teens mentor those in middle school and middle schoolers can partner with those in elementary school," he said.

And in a recent campaign promise, Blackmon's opponent, Democrat Ken Welch, promised to make St. Petersburg "safer for everyone." Tuesday night, he pushed that promise, while also saying he'd start by focusing on the youth.

"I wanna upgrade our community centers to be empowerment and innovation centers in the community and have a real continuing dialogue with our young people as I've been doing for years," he said.

To help keep this conversation going Givens Jr. will be holding a community forum on Tuesday, Oct. 26 at 5:30 p.m. to talk about the trauma that violence leaves behind. The event will be held at Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg.