ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — There’s an unsettling feeling right now in the city of St. Petersburg. More than a dozen people have been murdered this year, including a young mother shot Tuesday in front of her own children.
It seems to have started toward the end of last year as shootings and murders began occurring at a pace they haven’t seen in decades.
"It’s bad. It’s getting worse," said Freddie Rowe, who lives just around the corner from one of two deadly shootings Tuesday in St. Petersburg.
Someone fired into a car killing a young woman as she held her 1-year-old in her arms. Her 2-year-old was in the back seat.
"So, to think that one-year-old baby was also at risk. And then the other rounds went in the back seat where the other child was sitting," said Police Chief Anthony Holloway. "And barely missed that child."
"I’ve been here 61 years," said Terry Allen, who also lives nearby. "And I’ve never seen it this bad."
Community leaders agree something’s got to be done. But, it’s hard to know where to start.
Mayor Rick Kriseman pointed to stresses created by COVID-19 as a possible factor, "And the increase of violence we’ve seen nationwide, possibly because of COVID," he said.
As the murder rate started to climb toward the end of last year, community leaders organized the “Enough is Enough” movement, calling for an end to gun violence and encouraging those with information about the shootings to come forward.
But the deadly violence has continued into 2021.
While St. Petersburg sees an average of about 20 homicides per year, they saw 15 in 2020.
Already in 2021, they’ve had 12 murders and one case of manslaughter -- 13 deaths in just the first three months of this year.
“Now we’re asking help from the community again. We need to stop settling our differences with guns,” Holloway said.
While detectives are making arrests, the underlying reason for the surge in violence is unclear.
Most cases have had no connection to each other. And at several crime scenes, multiple people have been shot dead.
"It bothers me real bad," Allen said. "I mean, because, I came out of this neighborhood. And to see my neighborhood turn the trash. And to see people just don’t care about each other."
"We need some help. They need to do something about what’s going on over here," Rowe said. "Because it’s scary. It is."
Two people believed responsible for another deadly shooting Tuesday have been taken into custody.
Holloway said that means 11 out of 12 cases from this year have been solved.
Holloway also made a point of mentioning all the people killed so far this year in these cases -- and all the people believed responsible for this year’s murders in St. Petersburg -- have all been Black.
"This pains me," he said.
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