Gun violence, trauma from gun violence, and the COVID-19 pandemic combined have highlighted and exacerbated already-existing racial inequities in the St. Petersburg area. In Pinellas County, there were 531 incidents of gun violence including 283 deaths over the last 4 years. Over half of this violence occurred in St. Petersburg where 281 incidents of gun violence took place including 135 deaths.
Recent incidents of gun violence experienced in south St. Petersburg ignited local leaders and the community to demand systemic change—especially when it comes to race equity. Councilmember Lisa Wheeler-Bowman asserted, “We don’t like to see the gatherings on 16th Street, that they are now calling Crenshaw Blvd., where people are being killed. We don’t like seeing the corner stores allowing people to sell drugs out of them. We don’t like seeing them allowing people to gather, and they won’t sign blanket trespassing warrants so that our police officers can go and do their job. Gun violence affects more than just the victim. We have to address the root causes of violence in Black communities if we want to see results.”
Young adults provided a fresh and hopeful perspective voicing their opinions in a virtual forum to curb gun violence in St. Petersburg. The Department of Urban Affairs is working specifically in south St. Petersburg to improve quality of life through job training, youth programs, and crime prevention efforts. The “Not My Son” campaign attempts to engage the community to reduce gun violence and create a safer environment, especially for the city’s youth.
Councilmember Deborah Figgs-Sanders was sparked to create the “Enough is Enough” campaign. The purpose of the initiative was to educate and provide resources, opportunities, and alternatives to solving problems related to violence in Black communities. Figgs-Sanders explains, “We can’t tell people ‘don’t do it’ without providing them alternative ways to solve their problems. St. Petersburg should be a city of opportunity. We have to reach those most at risk and connect them to the resources they need most.” Enough is Enough has a multi-faceted approach with a focus on advocacy, education, job skills training, youth empowerment, and strengthening family structures. Figgs-Sanders emphasized putting the needs of the community first, saying “We want people to know we see you, we hear you, and you are not alone.”
There is a critical need to utilize a race equity lens when addressing gun violence in St. Petersburg. Community leaders are on the right track with equity-focused campaigns like Not My Son and Enough is Enough. But these campaigns are just the beginning. The community, businesses, and leadership need to unite more than ever to tackle the root causes of racial inequities and the root causes of gun violence in the St. Petersburg area. When it comes to creating a safer and more equitable St. Petersburg, the more aggressive the response is, the better.
- Not My Son Campaign – Take the Not My Son Pledge and find out about the upcoming Community Intersection Rally here.
- Sources vary greatly in how they count gun violence statistics. The data referenced above was sourced through The Gun Violence Archive, an independent data collection and research group with no affiliation with any advocacy organization.
- Please note that the article “incidents of gun violence.” Please note, this is broader categorization than “gun related homicides.” Additional information about what GVA includes in this category can be found here.