St. Petersburg leaders work to combat violence

News conference to announce initiative to combat gun and teen violence

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla (WFLA) – The problem of gun violence is front and center in St. Petersburg. Nearly 300 guns were reported stolen in the city last year. Most of those were stolen from cars.

St. Petersburg police are trying to combat the problem by reaching out to at-risk youth and legal gun owners. Officers are worried about the disturbing trend of teens being killed or killing others in St. Petersburg.

In December 17-year-old Tyler Lord was gunned down, killed in an alley behind his home. A few days later, 17-year-old Gabriel Wallace was murdered just a few blocks away from where Lord was killed. And just a week ago, two teens in St. Petersburg were arrested in a hotel shooting.

Now, a huge plan is underway to combat those grim and growing statistics.

Reverend Ken Irby, a pastor and longtime youth role model in St. Petersburg, has been tapped by the city as the new community intervention director, a position created to ensure young felons are given the help they need to get their lives back on track.

 It’s about worldview expansion. It’s about exposure. Children know what they know because, as you said, they’re very impressionable. We have to show them real relevant alternatives,” Irby said.

Irby is just one part of the plan. The other part involves gun owners. The city is proving free gun locks to people who need and want them and vehicle anti-theft devices to keep cars secure. More than half the guns reported stolen in St. Petersburg were take from cars.

“We’re trying to slow people down to say, ‘Hey, take a second.’ That’s what we’re trying to do, just be responsible. As the mayor said, if you leave it in your glove box, lock your glovebox,” Police Chief Anthony Holloway said.

The mayor and police chief are also asking gun shops to distribute letters to legal gun owners. It asks them to store their guns safely in order to keep them out of the hands of children and criminals.

It’s all an effort to turn things around and stop youth and gun violence in a city that seems under siege from both

The number to call for those gun locks is (727) 893-7128. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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