St Pete neighbors worry about teens getting guns

Posted at 5:54 PM, May 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-30 18:23:57-04

People living in South St Pete are fed up with gun violence and they worry about teens turning to crime to pass time this summer.

St Pete Police officers say the summer months are concerning because teens are often left unsupervised. 

The issue was brought to light Monday when a 17-year-old brought a gun to a home full of children in St Pete. An 11-year old picked up the weapon and accidentally shot a 10-year-old boy.

Carl Cox says he hears guns being fired off constantly from the neighborhood around his South St Pete home.

His two young sons, Zachary and Fred, are limited to just 5 minutes of outdoor playtime, and only if their dad is there to watch. “It’s just too dangerous,” Cox explained.

Cox says bullets pierce the air, even in the middle of the day. "I hear 10 gunshots a day. As soon as I hear a gunshot, I’m snatching my kids up and running inside.”

"I saw a 10-year-old kid with a gun in his back pocket. I saw it with my own eyes,” Cox added.

Just down the street, Ellis Hodge is turning to prayer to comfort his congregation. "People are really afraid. They're on edge,” Hodge said, “It’s rebellion happening like we’ve never witnessed it before.”

St Pete Police Officer David Lopez, who takes part in the Police Athletic League's summer camps, explained:  “If you give them a second where you’re not paying attention, that’s a second they can get in trouble.”

Officers like Lopez are pinpointing high risk kids and teens and working hard to get them into P.A.L. camps. “We get the list of kids being arrested and we pull them out and try to get them into programs. We know there are good mentors here that can steer them in the right direction,” Lopez added.

The program has a high success rate, but getting the most at-risk kids to sign up can be tricky.

The other problem: unlocked guns.

St Pete Police recently took 50 illegal guns off the streets, but more are being stolen from cars and homes every day. 

Cox is starting to lose patience, “I’m fed up with it. Period. That’s why we’re moving.”

St Pete Police say their next step is targeting the parents of at-risk teens this summer, urging them to step in before it’s too late.

PAL still has several openings for kids and teens in their summer camp programs, which are designed for all kids-- not just those needing guidance. 

The PAL program still has about 20 spots in their Midtown location and 55 spots in their Woodlawn location. Camp starts Monday, June 5, but children can join the camp at any time.

For more information, call 727-800-1725.