St. Pete Police curbing potential crime with new resource center

Posted at 4:56 AM, Aug 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-23 06:52:33-04

Folks shopping and eating in a popular St. Petersburg district may start seeing more police officers.

Police say the growth in the Grand Central District could bring more crime - it's why a new police resource center is opening in the Grand Central bus station.

The station won't be open to the public, but will serve as an area for officers patrolling that district to fill out paperwork, eat lunch or dinner, use the restroom and have a physical presence in the community aside from their patrol cars.

Suzan Sawyer loves to shop and eat in the area and says it certainly is growing, "It's wonderful, the arts district is coming back."

She says more police officers is a good thing. "We need them," she said.

Business owners feel the same. "Any type of investment has to be protected," said Andy Salyards with the Urban Restaurants group, who says the St. Pete Police department has already been putting new businesses at ease.

Brian Longstreth, owner of Punky's Bar and Grill says their presence is pretty solid. "They've been riding their bicycles through the district," he said. "I think that up close and personal attention to the businesses, the customers, and the people walking the streets is a great opportunity again, for them and for the district."

But the area isn't without issues - bike theft and homeless folks soliciting customers is a problem. Victor Asuzu drives for a local cab company and parks his car near the Grand Central bus station during lunch time. "When you park here, you see two or three people come ask you for change," he said.

It's why the St. Pete Police Department chose the bus station as a place to set up an office - serving as a visual reminder to deter crime and speed up response times as well. When the SPPD was seeking a hub station, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority was the first to step up and offer a location.

"You can reach out and touch them, they are around the corner, they are across the street," said Major Antonio Gilliam, of police offers in St. Pete Police Department's District 3. "We are walking in different areas, we're walking from business-to-business, and this allows us to be closer to our community."

Salyards says the area is no longer a place that isn't safe and hopes more people check it out.

"There's a ton of people in town that still have the image in their mind that 16 through 34th Street is a place you don't go," he said. "There's a ton of people that live east of Fourth Street that are missing out on everything at this place has to offer."