Sunday, Nov 23, 2014

Crimes surge in Childs Park, but officials say statistics are skewed

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ST. PETERSBURG — Violent crime in the Childs Park neighborhood spiked by 30 percent last year, roughly five times the increase the city as a whole saw.

But officials say last year’s uptick is not indicative of a troubling trend. And Lisa Wheeler-Brown, president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations, said she received no complaints from residents in the largely poor, African-American neighborhood.

One of three recent robberies on the Pinellas Trail occurred in Childs Park, and was particularly violent. A 54-year-old St. Petersburg woman had some teeth knocked out when two suspects stole her and her husband’s bicycles while the couple were riding on Feb. 1. Police administrators say the department has increased patrols along the recreational thoroughfare and, on Thursday, detectives said they have identified a 17-year-old suspect who lives in Childs Park, and they are looking for him.

Much like the violent crimes in Childs Park, the number of nonviolent crimes went up at a greater rate than the city overall — 23 percent compared with 6 percent. Burglaries went up 36 percent and auto thefts 15 percent compared to 2012, department statistics show.

Interim Police Chief Dave DeKay said crimes were down significantly in 2012, making the comparison with 2013 a little skewed. Over a five-year period, violent crime in Childs Park is down 12 percent, and overall crime is down 5 percent, statistics show.

Some of Child’s Park 2013 statistics give the wrong impression, administrators say. With some crime categories, a few additional cases can translate into huge percentage jumps. For instance, incidents of forcible sex increased from seven cases to 10, which is a 43 percent increase.

But with aggravated assaults, there were 43 more incidents in 2013 than in 2012, a 47 percent increase, statistics show.

DeKay said the aggravated assault category covers a wide range of crimes, including kids throwing rocks, domestic squabbles, or someone swinging a bat at a person.

“No one has reported anything significant going on in Child’s Park,” DeKay said. “I’m not concerned with that specific increase.

“If you look at the crimes behind the numbers, it changes the complexity of it. They are not being ignored,” he said.

sthompson@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-6504

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