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St. Pete Officials Announce Gun Violence Initiatives

Roberto Roldan/WUSF

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Police Chief Anthony Holloway announced new initiatives on Tuesday to curb gun violence.

Holloway said St. Pete Police Department would begin forming a group to track recovered stolen guns back to their point of purchase to see how criminals are getting stolen guns.

The announcement came after a recent spike in gun violence in the city. Half of all fatal shootings in St. Petersburg in 2015 occurred in just the last two months of the year, according to the St. Pete Police Department. 

Kriseman discussed an open letter his office drafted, urging gun owners to lock up their guns.

“You have a gun in your car and there is not lock on that gun and that gun is used in the commission of a crime, you're just as guilty. You bear responsibility for what happens when that gun is used illegally,” Kriseman said.

The newly appointed Community Intervention Director Reverend Kenny Irby also announced his plans to bring job and mentoring opportunities to South St. Petersburg to fight gun culture.

Irby is a pastor and is director of the mentorship program Men in the Making in St. Petersburg. (Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect name for the group.)

In his new role, Irby said his first tasks will be the creation of a mentorship program and working with local employers to get second chances for those with criminal records. He also plans to host forums to get community input on how the city's $1 million investment in South St. Pete will be spent.

“Twelve-year-olds shouldn't have guns and have Facebook profiles of them with guns and wads of money,” Irby said. “It's changing the dynamic and the expectations of our children. They are largely the product of their environment, so we have to show them an alternative.”

Irby said he doesn’t kid himself into thinking his task will be easy, but without changing the mindset of the community he said the city will have a difficult time tackling the challenge of violent crime.

The St. Pete Police Department is now giving out free gun locks at their offices in Downtown St. Pete.  Free auto theft prevention devices are also available through the police department. 

Roberto Roldan is a senior at the University of South Florida pursuing a degree in mass communications and a minor in international studies.
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