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Tampa police host forum for a community conversation on gun violence

Gun violence statistics for the city of Tampa show an increase in deaths. Now, community members are speaking out to change that.

TAMPA, Fla — Community members in Tampa came together Tuesday night to talk about the city's gun violence. 

Tampa Police Interim Chief Ruben Delgado hosted his first community forum. This allowed citizens to voice their concerns about violence within the city. Delgado said this will be the first of many forums to come. The next one is in Sulphur Springs.

The gymnasium inside the Jackson Heights YET Center was packed with people who are concerned about the city's violence. Numerous people shared their stories about losing loved ones or fearing where they live because of gun violence.

In attendance was Patricia Brown, a mother who lost her son, Devante Brown, to gun violence. Brown explained Devante was shot and killed on Mar. 21, 2020. He was walking in the area of Nebraska Avenue and Scott Street when he lost his life.

“Devante had just come home from work. He was walking to the store and guys come through the neighborhood shooting. He tried to run and get out of the way. He got caught in the crossfire and got shot and killed," Brown explained.

Devante was a 27-year-old man who everyone knew and loved. 

“He would come and do anything for anybody," Brown added. 

Devante was known by everyone in the community. Brown said even one year later, people tell her what an amazing impact he had on them.

Devante was full of passion and now his mother is too. Brown's passion is to stop gun violence. She founded "Rise up for Peace." It's a nonprofit organization that works with different groups and agencies to stop gun violence.

“We literally have blood on the streets. Her son's murder is unsolved. My son, my two cousins, murder is unsolved," Johnny Johnson said.

Johnson grew up with Brown and is also a member of "Rise up for Peace."

Together they are doing everything in their power to stop what they call senseless shootings. 

“It’s not statistics to us. It’s family. It actually touches home. It’s not another story to us," Johnson stated.

During the forum, Interim Chief Delgado said the number of guns taken off the streets is greater this year than last year. This year Delgado said 1,800 guns were taken off Tampa streets. 

The reason people are still so concerned is that the number of shootings continues to increase. Tampa police released data on the number of shootings to 10 Tampa Bay. Police said in 2020 there were 219 shootings. That number rose in 2021 to 243 shootings.

That's the reason dozens of people came to the Jackson Heights YET Center forum. People want to see change and hear what's being done to create safety.

Delgado said he is increasing the number of patrols on the streets. In East Tampa, people can expect to see more officers riding bikes. 

A big concern from people who attended was they said no kids were there. People believe children are the ones involved in the violence and they need to be a part of the discussions. Delgado told 10 Tampa Bay that is something he is aware of and hopes to change. The chief also mentioned people told him about resources and programs that worked in Miami that the department plans to look into.

The biggest message from the police was they can't arrest their way out of this. Delgado said it's everyone in the community who will stop the crime and police can help.

“It’s going to take your eyes on the streets. It’s going to take your phone calls, your tips," explained Major Calvin Johnson. He covers District 3 for the Tampa Police Department.

Community members echoed this can't be done with just some people. Everyone needs to be involved and everyone in Tampa is impacted. 

“It’s not one particular place. That’s why it’s going to take everyone. It’s reached every zip code," Johnson added.

The Tampa Police Department plans to hold more forums in 2022 to look for additional solutions.

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