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New Tampa police chief says gun violence needs to stop

Newly appointed Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor held her first gun violence forum Monday night.

TAMPA, Fla. — People living in Tampa attended a forum with the city's police to see what can be done to put a stop to gun violence in the area.

Dozens of people from the community attended the forum, which was led by the newly appointed Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor. Those who attended the forum inside St Leo University said it will take everyone to put a stop to the violence.

Teenagers attended and said their presence is important because it offers a different perspective. 

“To be a 16-year-old young man in the city is different than an adult in the streets," Ta'coyne Diggs said. 

Diggs has family members who have been gunned down. For him, the solution is everyone acknowledging the issue and wanting to put a stop to it.

Chief Mary O’Connor said tonight’s forum is about the community having a voice. O’Connor wants the police department to work with community members to address the problem.

The founder of the local group Rise up for Peace, Patricia Brown, cried as she talked about the loss of her son. Devante Brown was walking home from work when he was gunned down and killed in Tampa in 2020. 

“My heart breaks for both of them. I have a 20-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter,” O’Connor stated.

The police chief said she is committed to cold cases and making sure victims get justice. Chief O’Connor said she is prioritizing three things, community engagement, crime reduction and officer wellness. 

The community believes police officers need to be outside their patrol cars more and walking the streets. People also suggested in the areas where there is high crime, there should be cameras. 

O'Connor said those are two things the department can work on. She said this forum wasn't going to be the end of the conversation. 

“I want to assure you the forum does not end tonight,” O’Connor said. She plans to host these forums yearly and said another will happen in three months from now. 

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