St. Petersburg police credit community policing for fewer crimes

A report out this week from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows violent and property crimes are on the decline across the state.

In fact, 2018 marked the 48th year in a row the crime rate in the sunshine state dropped.

According to FDLE's 2018 Annual UCR, almost every county in the Bay Area had a drop in overall crime last year. For the St. Petersburg Police Department, overall crime is the lowest it's been since 2007, plunging by 21%.

Police Chief Anthony Holloway says the department has been focusing on four main offenses.

"Drug was our number one, and then after that is robbery, people rob for drugs," he explained.  "Prostitution was number three, men and women are out there prostituting themselves for drugs, and then the last one is burglary."

Compared to 2017 data, robbery is down 26.3% and burglary dropped by 31.9%.

Holloway says specialized units and community policing has played a huge role in the downward trends.

"When you get out there and actually make connections with people it's helpful," Sgt. John DeLuca said. "You'd be surprised what people will tell you when their guards down, and they feel comfortable with you."

Holloway started the Park, Walk & Talk program when he became chief in 2014. Officers spend one hour of their week chatting with folks in the community.

"The only way that we can accomplish what we're doing is if people help us," said DeLuca. "It's a two-way street."

The department has also developed stronger relationships with federal, state, and local agencies.  Sharing information to focus on the bigger picture, and putting their officers where the crime is.

"We stopped just looking at St. Petersburg, and we looked at Pinellas County, how we can address everything," Holloway said.

The St. Petersburg Police Department is one of about 30 agencies operating in Pinellas County.  Combined, there was a dip of 14.2% in crime.