If you follow The Gabber you remember an article I wrote last month about a meeting of the minds between Gulfport and St. Petersburg Police. For that article I met with both Gulfport Chief of Police Curt Willocks and Saint Petersburg Chief of Police Chuck Harmon. I also interviewed Gulfport Mayor Mike Yakes and Councilperson Mary Stull, and although their words didn’t make the final cut of the article, their insights pointed me towards where we at the paper thought the article should ultimately go.
If that seems lopsided to you- you know, in that I spent a lot of time with Gulfport officials but only spoke to the police on the St. Pete side- you’re right. It WAS lopsided. That inequity comes not from shoddy reporting but from… something else. You could say- and I AM saying it- that St. Petersburg was somewhat unresponsive to not only my attempts but my publisher’s to setting up an interview with Mayor Rick Baker (“somewhat unresponsive”, by the way, is a euphemism some reporters use when they think they still have a chance in hell of setting up aforementioned interview and don’t want to end up with a hostile interview-ee). Deputy Mayor Goliath Davis III did not return my calls, either. If you follow midtown politics you know that Davis is Baker’s answer to problems in midtown. Unless, I guess, you’re a white chick trying to get a story about what the City has actually committed to.
That’s not to say that I didn’t get good information from Harmon. Harmon seemed to genuinely care about the city’s safety; once he chose to believe that I didn’t want to write an expose about crime and the police department’s ambivalence towards midtown, he relaxed. A little.
In a nutshell (I know good reporting should have hard and fast statistics, but let’s keep it simple and I’ll condense. If anyone wants to challenge me, contact me at 321-6965 and I’ll pull out my ream of crime stats).
*Midtown St. Pete runs from 4th Street South west to 34th Street South and from 2nd Avenue North south to 30th Avenue South. It does not include Childs Park; however, the City of St. Pete’s midtown documentation includes something called the Childs Park Initiative. Midtown proper, though, doesn’t touch Gulfport, but to many, midtown includes Childs Park- perhaps because St. Pete includes that as midtown in all documentation except their map of the area.
*The Childs Park area has a LOT of crime.
*Childs Park and Gulfport share 49th Street South, a corridor that has, by comparison, more crime than other areas of Gulfport.
*Both police departments have expressed to The Gabber a strong wish to work together and improve the situation along 49th Street. Gulfport Crime Watch (GCW) has had Childs Park representatives speak at meetings but, at press time, the head of GCW hasn’t been able to contact the head of Childs Park Crime Watch (Ms. Patterson; she wouldn’t give us her first name) to attend another meeting. I, too, have met with no success in getting Ms. Patterson to talk to the paper.
If you’re sensing a pattern here- one that links apathy, unresponsiveness, and crime- then good, I’m not the only one.