12/12/17 Public Safety
ST. PETERSBURG — Two assistant police chiefs are stepping down next month, leaving two of the three second-in-command jobs vacant at the St. Petersburg Police Department.
Assistant Chief Jim Previtera announced this week that he will resign from the department on Jan. 7 and head two blocks south to Tropicana Field, where he will oversee security for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Assistant Chief Luke Williams will retire at the end of January. An exact date was not available....
12/11/17 Public Safety
When the fire chief asked if anyone in the room had fallen before, a few in the gray- and white-haired crowd raised their hands.
One woman lost her footing as she was answering the phone. Another saw a palmetto bug, sprayed it with repellent, then slipped, the floor slick with bug spray.
Sam Jeffers, 83, had just mowed his lawn in Palm Harbor when his toes curled beneath his feet. He fell on his knees, then back the other way, breaking his hip. A man who had once spent his weekends running 10Ks had to move into The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay, a senior living community in South Pasadena....
TARPON SPRINGS — A local crossbow maker that has faced criticism over the safety of its products has recently settled lawsuits with several customers.
But many are still active, and some additional suits have been filed in circuit court as recently as last month against Tarpon-Springs based Barnett Crossbows, its parent company and an affiliate company.
The lawsuits have similar claims: While using the crossbows, the string snapped back on the shooter's thumb, causing injuries ranging from fractures to amputations. The issue, the suits say, is that Barnett manufactured its bows without a finger or thumb guard and didn't have adequate safety warnings included with the bows....
12/05/17 Human Interest
A dating app is hoping to connect some Tampa baes in Tampa Bay.
But while apps such as Tinder and Bumble are open to all, this one, called The League, is looking only for singles of a certain, eh-hem, pedigree.
See, The League isn't trying to be another app available for all users who want to venture into the soul-crushing but occasionally fruitful world of online dating. The League's goal is much narrower — elitist, some would say, but we'll get to that later. ...
CLEARWATER — Kurt Baima heard banging Thursday morning and assumed someone was doing construction work on a neighbor's house.
But then it occurred to him: What if it's coming from my house?
He said he grabbed his 9mm Beretta semiautomatic pistol and checked around the Cleveland Street home he shares with a roommate. In the garage, he said, he came face to face with a man he'd never seen before....
11/29/17 Public Safety
Four Pinellas County sheriff's deputies were suspended after internal investigations found they neglected their duties during Hurricane Irma.
Deputies Jason Beetz, Kristen Spielmeyer and Brian Williams received 40 hours without pay with part of the punishments delayed if they stay out of trouble for the next year, according to the investigations. Beetz and Williams were also demoted to patrol deputies from their jobs as narcotics detectives, said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. Cpl. Hal White was handed down 16 hours....
11/28/17 Human Interest
Johnny and Kathy Schultz perused the artificial tree displays at Lowe's, eyeing the preadorned lights and glossy price tags with careful consideration.
Choosing a manufactured tree in the air conditioning of a big-box store was new for the couple. Since they were married 26 years ago, they've been Real Tree people, enamored with the smell.
But this year, they arrived at their usual lot to find a price increase from the previous year that made Johnny Schultz turn around and walk out. The couple had heard about a Christmas tree shortage on the news....
11/27/17 Public Safety
Opioids ravaged Florida last year, contributing to thousands more drug-related deaths than even at the peak of the pill mill crisis.
New figures released this month also shed light on a less publicized trend that law enforcement officials say is a byproduct of the opioid epidemic and of more drug use in general: a sharp rise in cocaine-related deaths.
According to the annual Medical Examiners Commission Drug Report, deaths in which opioids were either present in the system or identified to be the cause of death saw a 35 percent increase from 2015, up to a total of 5,725 statewide. Cocaine-related deaths shot up from 1,834 to 2,882 during the same time, a 57 percent increase. That trumps the previous 15-year high of 2,179 in 2007 by more than 700 deaths....
11/20/17 Public Safety
LARGO — The classroom was full, but the chatter was quiet as the students picked at doughnuts and sipped coffee from paper cups.
Many were strangers to each other, but the reason they showed up at the Largo Police Department on a sunny Saturday morning was their common ground.
"It could never happen …" read a cartoon that flashed on a screen at the front of the room. Then, underneath: "Welcome to HERE, your town, USA!"...
LARGO — Driving down West Bay Drive, you may notice some changes to downtown Largo.
A new 29-unit apartment complex on Ridge Road stands finished and ready for residents. South of the complex, land that was formerly home to a community of rundown cottages and the Smokin' Rib Shack restaurant is now a flat plot of dirt and grass, the homes demolished and the restaurant relocated.
The empty lot is now ready for construction to begin next year on the West Bay Lofts project, a pair of buildings on the 500 and 600 blocks of West Bay Drive with 123 apartments and close to 36,000 square feet of commercial space that city officials hope will be a game-changer for the struggling downtown. ...
11/14/17 Human Interest
We at the Tampa Bay Times know how overwhelming it can be to find the news most useful to you in today's constant churn of information.
We also know decisions made by your mayor, city council, police chief and other representatives have the biggest potential to impact your everyday life — and that knowledge of those changes can give you the power to make a difference.
That's why we've created a Facebook group for all things Pinellas County. Consider it a one-stop shop for government and crime to events and features from Tarpon Springs down to Gulfport. Find it by searching Pinellas Community News from the Tampa Bay Times or by clicking here....
11/10/17 Public Safety
Chris DeFayette had just gotten home from a smooth morning of services at Mission City Church in Largo when he saw the news.
A shooting at a small church in Texas. Multiple casualties. Information was still rolling in, but the death toll would hit 25 people ages 1 to 77, including a pregnant woman.
A pastor at Mission City texted a news article about it to DeFayette, the church's security director, sparking a conversation about the church's own safety protocols....
11/09/17 Public Safety
LARGO — A police department training Nov. 18 for residents to learn strategies to survive in the event of an active shooter is full, but officials are asking interested people to contact the department to potentially hold another class.
The training, called ALICE — Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate — will cover information about active shooting incidents, physical drills and passive versus proactive response strategies, according to a department flier....
11/03/17 Public Safety
The scene has become all too familiar.
A woman found slumped over in a running car. Police officers breaking through the window to get to her and the two children inside. A used syringe, silver spoon and lighter lying on the floorboard.
Opioids have infiltrated every demographic of every community across Florida, creating a public health emergency unrivaled since the pill mill crisis. And on that morning in August, one facet of combating the epidemic unfolded....
UPDATE: Pinellas County deputies say they have arrested two men responsible for a pair of drive-by shootings on St. Petersburg Beach and Treasure Island, wounding one person.
Brian White strolled down Gulf Boulevard in Treasure Island, holding a lit cigar....