Police Chief Says Police Can’t Reduce Crime, Can Change Perception on 49th Street

Cathy Salustri


Police Chief Says Police Can’t Reduce Crime, Can Change Perception on 49th Street

Gulfport Police Chief Rob Vincent told the city manager in a July 16 memo “it is unlikely we will be able to reduce actual crime any further” along the 49th Street corridor.

 Although Gulfport Police Chief Rob Vincent told the city manager in a July 16 memo “it is unlikely we will be able to reduce actual crime any further” along the 49th Street corridor, Tuesday night he presented council with an almost-$150,000 plan to improve the community’s perception of 49th Street.

 Chief Vincent’s perception-improving plan includes improving lighting on 49th Street, adding a police officer, and try surveillance cameras along the corridor. Chief Vincent said he would not feel it necessary to move the city’s four man, plainclothes, criminal investigations unit to the 49th Street Neighborhood Center if the council agreed to give him another officer. Not moving the criminal investigations unit would shave $20,000 off the $150,000 price tag.

 Chief Vincent also said the extra officer, which would carry a cost of $85,000 (that figure includes benefits, a vehicle, and equipment), would allow him the ability to “be more proactive” with Neighborhood Watch groups and create a volunteer group of people who could monitor video surveillance.

 “If you have people volunteer in your name, you have to have somebody watching everything they do,” he said, adding that with an extra officer to oversee volunteers, the department could assist code enforcement officer Bruce Earling with his duties.

 Although some area residents have asked that Gulfport take a more proactive approach to the St. Petersburg side of 49th Street, the chief refused to do so.

 “We must recognize that Gulfport has neither the authority nor the right to press for changes in neighborhoods outside of our city,” he said in the same July 16 memo to City Manager Jim O’Reilly. “The residents of those areas are entitled and empowered to insist that their government provide the level of services they desire. If those residents want change, they must be the ones to make it happen.”

 Tuesday night, he reiterated that message, but added a twist.

 “We don’t have any right to tell.. the government of St. Pete what they should be doing,” he said, but added that if council approved funding for an additional officer, it would “be completely appropriate” to meet with community leaders involved with both sides of 49th Street.

 The chief suggested that video surveillance would work only in tandem with staff or volunteers who could monitor the footage.

 “If you don’t have somebody watching it, it’s limited in value,” he said. He suggested purchasing two cameras using seized funds and consulting with “anyone affected” on both sides of 49th Street as to the placement.

 Ward One Councilman and Vice Mayor Dan Liedtke said he would not support adding another officer but suggested the city create a “Gulfport Commerce SafeCam Grant Program” whereby the city offered businesses a matching $1,000 grant to install security cameras.

 Council made no decisions.