TPD chief nominee speaks at gun violence forum
Briona Arradondo reports
Monday’s conversation in West Tampa was the third meeting in a series of community forums with Tampa police within the department’s three districts. The mayor’s newly appointed police chief Mary O’Connor said violent crime citywide went up 4.8% in 2021, and shootings in District 1 or the West Tampa area went down 72% year to date from 2021 to 2022. O’Connor said the city’s 10 homicides so far this year are about even with 2021 year to date.
“I’m ready to go to work right now today to implement these ideas this community needs to get done,” O’Connor said. “If the number one priority tonight is for the officers to have more meaningful discussions with the communities, that’s step one. Let’s just start there.”
Lots of ideas were floated during the two-hour discussion including expanding social services, better and more meaningful community engagement and community programs for the city’s youth. Several residents also brought up the needs for police officers to walk the streets and build relationships with neighbors.
Downtown residents wonder if lifestyle is worth it amid shootings
It was a long night for some residents in downtown Tampa, who told FOX 13 that, yet again, their evening was interrupted by gunshots. It’s become a familiar sound for residents who live in the area.
“I have to get buy in from my officers to remember why they came into this department,” said O’Connor.
The third forum came one day after a man was shot and killed on Franklin Street downtown. The general manager for the restaurant near where the shooting happened told O’Connor that there needs to be more of a police presence in the area.
Rise Up For Peace Founder Patricia Brown sits beside the police at the forums because she knows firsthand what it’s like to lose a loved one in that way to gun violence. Her mission is reaching the youth to stop the cycle.
“I know this summer we’re thinking about doing something for the youth, so they have something to do over the summer time,” said Brown, who said March will mark the two-year anniversary of her son’s murder.
Several residents said the community must do what it can do to support neighborhood children to discourage gun violence, mentioning the need for mentors and employment programs to show them their potential for a promising future.
O’Connor said the forums will be a continuing conversation, and she wants to schedule another round of forums in three months to brainstorm other solutions.