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Neighbors alarmed at St. Petersburg police in yard; left in smiles and tears at surprise

Sweet surprise by police leaves neighbors in tears
Posted at 5:03 PM, Dec 21, 2016

Police cars showed up in people's yards all over St. Petersburg Wednesday, but all for a good reason. What was happening quickly brought people from smiles to tears.

The blue emergency lights were shining and officers were walking through streets of St. Pete, but not to give out tickets.

"Merry Christmas," yelled a chorus of officers to a surprised homeowner. With bright smiles on their faces and acting like Santa, the officers were following a list and giving families in need a $100 gift card.

"I think it's a wonderful thing" said recipient James Hanible. "I just wish I could do it myself!"

"We hope this lightens your load and you're able to buy some nice gifts for your family," the group said to a different neighbor who wouldn't expect much during the giving season.

"Wow!" said Jawonda Anderson about the surprise, "It's bringing tears in my eyes a little bit."

Attorney James Flynn donated $5,000 to the police department so they could spread the holiday cheer. It warmed hearts and wet eyes.

Yet, all of this goes far beyond a $100 gift card. St. Petersburg police say it's also about getting out there in the communities and changing perceptions of what it means to be a police officer.

"I think people look at them in bad way," said Anderson, "They're just like everybody else."

This pre-Christmas surprise was also an opportunity to change that.

"Letting them see that we are humans and we're problem solvers; we're not just law enforcers," said Major Matthew McKinney. Officers like him are hoping more will remember that whenever the blue lights start shining.