St. Petersburg Police Seek Answers To End Rising Gun Violence

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla – There are more murders in St. Petersburg this year than any year in the past decade. Police detectives are emptied of endless investigations and some residents do not feel safe outside of their homes.

“When they turn on the news or read the newspaper, they think, ‘Okay, who was killed today?'” Said St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway.

Violence in the partner city of Tampa has been overwhelming over the past 11 months. ABC Action News spoke to Chief Holloway just days before the city’s 30th homicide – double the 15 gun deaths his department dealt with last year.

“These numbers keep increasing, more and more,” he said.

Holloway said his detectives were tired, not only by the workload, but also by the lack of any clear pattern on which these shots were identified.

“It’s murder-suicide, it’s family, it’s servants, it’s friends,” Holloway said. “It’s everywhere.”

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To understand what is happening, it is essential to understand why it is happening. ABC Action News spoke to Bryanna Fox, associate professor of criminology at the University of South Florida. Fox met his colleagues in Chicago this week at the American Society of Criminology’s annual conference after a historic increase in homicides nationwide in 2020.

“There has been a notable increase in homicides, particularly homicides involving firearms,” Fox said.

The 2020 FBI Uniform Crime Report shows a record 30% increase in murders from 2019. This trend has been mirrored in the state of Florida.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s annual crime report shows that the murder rate increased 14.7% between 2019 and 2020. Almost 80% of those murders involved a gun.

“The root cause? Holloway said. “Gun violence. “

“Massive surge in sales and availability of firearms,” Fox said.

Fox said there have been more guns sold in the past year and a half than at any time in US history. Statistics sent to ABC Action News by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reveal that 2.13 million gun background checks were performed in the past 18 months.

“There are more weapons available today than there have ever been in history,” Fox said.

“The more these guns are on the streets, the more harm they can do,” Holloway said.

Holloway said criminals knew these guns were at hand. He said hundreds of firearms are stolen from vehicles in St. Petersburg and used in crimes or sold for drugs, money or another firearm.

“Even if there is something else of value in there, they will leave it behind,” Fox said. “They’re just specifically looking for guns.”

“Once you’ve pulled that gun out and pulled the trigger, you can’t apologize anymore,” Holloway said. “Sorry is gone.”

Holloway said these suspects almost always seek forgiveness, and when asked why they did, their answer is uncertain.

“They say, ‘I don’t know,’” Holloway said.

The same conclusion detectives draw from 30 tragedies, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stop working to end the violence.

“Enough is enough,” Holloway said.

Chief Holloway is working with community and county partners to increase mental health and behavioral services to prevent more shootings. BayCare and Suncoast Center offer outreach services to help people in Pinellas County with mental health issues.


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