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As homicides reach 5-year high, Tampa councilman wants more support for those impacted by gun violence

With 45 homicides in 2021, gun violence is having a growing impact in Tampa.

TAMPA, Fla. — With 45 homicides in 2021, gun violence is having a growing impact in Tampa, and Councilman Luis Viera says he’s working to organize more support for loved ones and community members struggling with trauma.

"You have mothers, you have fathers, you have sons and daughters and siblings and loved ones who are left behind with a lifetime of agony and despair,” said Viera.

Viera says he's putting together a workshop early next year to learn what the city can do to help those impacted by gun violence.

“I'll be meeting with city staff. I'll be meeting with the police. I'll be meeting with organizations like Rise Up for Peace,” he said. “My big agenda in this was to ask the question, ‘what is the city of Tampa doing to help victims of crime?’ And how can we better help them, but from a public policy perspective?"

Included in the conversation will be voices like Patricia Brown and Johnny Johnson. Both lost sons to gun violence in Tampa.

"These kids are not coming back. They are gone,” said Johnson, whose son Jayquon was gunned down in 2017. "It's hard. You never get over it."

Brown’s son, Devonte Brown, was shot and killed in 2020. She said he got caught in crossfire and believes he was an unintended target. She says his killer has not been found.

"Everybody says it'll get better, but no, it won't. It will never get better,” she said. "When I have my bad days, it’s a depressing day. I mean, I don't wanna do anything. I don't wanna get out of bed. I don't want to go to work…I don't wanna do anything. I won't be bothered with nobody.”

Homicides in Tampa are at an all-time high. According to the Tampa Police Department, there have been 45 homicides in 2021. That’s compared to 31 in 2020 and 2019, 27 in 2018, and 39 in 2016.

“We can't hide from the agony and from the despair that victims of crime live with every single day,” said Viera. "Just because you live in a gated community in Tampa Palms or in Hunter's Green, or you live on Bayshore or you live in Hyde Park, doesn't mean that you shouldn't listen to the agonies of these people who have suffered such a terrible loss."

Viera says he hopes to have the workshop in early 2022.

"It's nothing that kills the pain,” said Johnson. “It's a lifelong pain."

RELATED: Community leaders hold virtual forum to curb recent wave of gun violence in Tampa Bay

RELATED: Crime may be down across the Tampa Bay area, but violent crime and murders are up

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