Gun violence will be the topic of the Chief of Police’s first community forum
TAMPA, FL — Caleb Jefferson tops a list his family has prayed he never makes.
The 27-year-old was the first person to die in Tampa in 2022 due to gun violence.
“He was such a character, he always talked and made someone laugh,” said his aunt, Monica Nelams. “I will love her forever and miss her infectious smile.”
Jefferson was shot at 12:34 p.m. on January 16 near the 5700 block of Steven Court, just two minutes after Tampa police received another call about a shooting in the 6700 block of Elm Court in Tampa.
Police believe the two shootings are related, but have yet to make any arrests.
Jefferson’s photo is the latest to be added to the Tampa page for the National Gun Violence Memorial. This list includes the names and photos of seven other Tampa residents killed by firearms in 2021, including 4-year-old Suni Michelle Bell, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in East Tampa on Aug. 22.
In an effort to end the escalating gun violence in Tampa, new Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor will host the third in a series of gun violence community forums on Monday, February 28 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Saint Leo University Tampa Education Center, 403 N. Howard Ave., Tampa.
Also in attendance will be Rise Up For Peace Founder and CEO Patricia Brown, who lost her own son to gun violence in March 2020.
O’Connor will discuss the new initiatives put in place to help combat the problem.
Tampa police said there were a record 47 homicides, both firearm-related and other methods of murder) in 2021, a 65% increase from 2020. In In total, there were 243 shootings in Tampa last year, and 194 of those victims survived. Of that total, 82 shootings took place in East Tampa.
A total of 204 people have been fatally shot in Tampa since 2016.
“My first priority is to connect with the community,” said O’Connor, who was named police chief Feb. 10, replacing former chief Brian Dugan, who stepped down. “I believe in building a team approach in fighting crime. We need to work together to prevent and solve crime in this city.
“As I stand before you today, I pledge to find new ways to work as a team to ensure that the community and each of its members have a voice within the police service,” said O’Connor. “It has always been our commitment to serve you, and now we will take it to the next level by working together to stop violence from reigning in our city.”
O’Connor worked for the Tampa Police Department for 22 years, rising to the rank of deputy chief before retiring in 2016.
Upon retirement, O’Connor traveled the country, teaching and sharing his expertise with law enforcement and criminal justice officials. She has also served as a consultant to the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“I’m sure you all know there has been an increase in violent crime in our country,” she said. “Combating this trend is also one of my top priorities. I have learned from my work with the Department of Justice and FBI LEEDA (composed of executive officers and law enforcement command personnel across the country) the importance of identifying the root causes of crime and then partnering with social services to address and prevent crime.
“Partnering with social services will take the strain off police offices and get people the help and services they really need,” O’Connor said. “We can’t stop to get out of the way. It just doesn’t work.”
In the meantime, Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera is planning a workshop in the coming months to find ways to support victims of violent crime.
“You have mothers, you have fathers, you have sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and loved ones who are left behind with a life of agony and despair,” Viera said. “I will meet with city staff. I will meet with police. I will meet with organizations like Rise Up for Peace. criminal acts? And how can we best help them, but from a public policy point of view?”
“Families are hurting, and we can’t get away from this revolving door of senseless murder,” said Rise Up for Peace member Leon Bland. “If you care about your sons and daughters, if you care about people in general, if you care about making this world a better place, if you care about making Tampa a better place, then do something.”
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