Gun violence rising in the US; Bay Area law enforcement see impacts locally

Even though the country has seen a drop in crime overall, experts say the number of shootings nationwide in the last five months has gone up.

A public health study from the National Institutes of Health shows there are several factors that could be contributing to gun violence, including the loss of jobs, higher alcohol consumption, and a jump in gun purchases.

Some Tampa Bay areas like the city of Sarasota are noticing a recent uptick in shootings.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic which is around March 13, we’ve had 41 shootings in our community called New Town,” said Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department. “I’m concerned that we’re seeing an uptick in shootings in recent weeks.”

Chief DiPino said her officers responded to two shootings in a single day this week, and that’s unusual. She said the pandemic could be making situations worse.

“People are aggravated. They’re tired of being inside. They’re tired of wearing masks. They’re tired of the government telling them what to do and how to do it,” said DiPino. “Unfortunately, they are becoming quite aggressive toward each other and towards strangers and also towards the police.”

According to the Gun Violence Archive, an online database that tracks nationwide shootings, the nonprofit tweeted that May, June and July had the most shootings of multiple people since they started collecting data in 2013.

FOX 13 reached out to several Tampa Bay area agencies to see how gun violence is affecting the area, specifically homicides from mid-March to now.

From the March 16 to August 12 time period, St. Petersburg police officers said they had seven deadly shootings in 2019, dropping down to four in the last five months.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office reported four gun-related homicides in 2019 and two this year.

But gun-related homicides went up in that time frame for Polk County. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said they had three deadly shootings in 2019 but jumped up to seven this year.

While law enforcement officers are tracking the numbers, they want to make sure no one else is added to that tally.

“While fortunately no one has been killed in the city of Sarasota as a result of this, to me, our time is ticking and I worry that our luck is going to run out. I don’t want that to happen,” said DiPino.

Last month, Tampa police arrested a man who shot at least 14 people during a 40-minute shooting spree. FOX 13 reached out to Tampa police about the number of shootings and gun-related homicides during the pandemic months but did not hear back.