ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - If a picture is worth a thousand words, Facebook could write an encyclopedia about the problems in St. Petersburg.
After Nicholas Lindsey, 16, was accused of killing Officer David Crawford in February, dozens of his Facebook friends came to his defense. Many of them post pictures of themselves with wads of cash, guns, or drugs on their pages.
Now, a blog called "Da Real Nick Lindsey" (caution: graphic) aims to document potential gang members in the city.
"You got some punks, you got some gangster wanna-bes, and it's a culture," said Mayor Bill Foster after 10 News showed him the website. "Kids posing with guns, that gangster mentality - it's disturbing."
The anonymous author of the webpage agreed to speak to 10 News via e-mail, and said she simply had enough after Crawford's murder.
"I never felt compelled to start anything of this nature, but the response to Officer Crawford's death was overwhelming to me," she said. "People were celebrating his death (online) and calling for more cop killings. It was sickening."
"I also believe there is a very serious issue of kids who are aspiring to be nothing more than thugs and goons."
Several councilmembers were shown the website this week too.
"It's really scary that it's out there," said council chair Jim Kennedy. "It makes you wonder what their parents are thinking and where their parents may be."
The St. Pete Police Department (SPPD) couldn't comment on specifics of cases but said it was aware of the website and officers routinely monitor social media.
However, since free speech is protected, social media sometimes only comes into play as evidence after a crime is committed.
"Part of our job as constitutional officers is to protect people's First Amendment rights," said SPPD Chief Chuck Harmon. "But if they engage in criminal behavior, than that crosses the line and we will use those things they post on there against them."
Foster and the blog's author agree it isn't a problem limited to south St. Pete or African-Americans. They both said the problem is societal.
"We all need to step up and let the kids know this is not acceptable behavior in St. Pete or any civilized society. It's really not," said Foster, who added that his long-term plan includes reaching out to kids in local elementary schools.
However, he admitted there was no easy fix for the short-term crime problems in the city.
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