Lakeland School Resource Officers Spend Summer Tackling Gangs - WFLA News Channel 8

Lakeland School Resource Officers Spend Summer Tackling Gangs

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Gang violence threatens a certain Lakeland neighborhood and police have a new way they're fighting to stop it. As a way to fight back, the interim chief of the Lakeland Police Department chose to not only saturate the most problem area with officers, but use school resource officers.

“They know these kids and they know their parents. They can connect with them on a different level,” Sgt. Richard Rose said.

Handshakes, smiles and hugs come from the feelings of protection neighbors like Pearlie Landy finally feel.

“Having their presence makes a big difference,” Landy said. “All this shooting, shooting up everybody, why they haven't been coming over?” Landy wondered.

Every day from around 2 til 10 pm you'll see Lakeland Police sitting-,walking and talking near 2nd and Jewel Street -an area that's earned a reputation as violent and dangerous from gang activity.

“It's been rough. I have a bullet hole in my air conditioning where someone was shooting from that way,” Landy, whose lived in the neighborhood 33 years, said.

The officers working the area are the ones who traditionally spend summer months in training or issuing cigarette violations.

“I would say that the need has gotten to a point where we need to forgo that kind of training and those kinds of activities and spend our time here and I believe it's paying off,” Rose, who is forgoing his vacation this summer to work the beat, said.

“I've seen a lot of changes nobody has been fighting or shooting or none of that mess,” Landy said of the effect the police presence has had.

One neighbor even boasts that the area is now the safest place in Lakeland , which might make you wonder if the danger is just finding a new home.

“We’re not kidding ourselves, we believe that we might be displacing some of it,” Rose said. “We're also identifying those hotspots around the city and sending officers out there as well.”

But Pearlie Landy likes having them right there with her.

It reminds her of the days when walking outside did not mean you had to worry.

“They're finally doing what they're supposed to do. I'm glad,” Landy said.

Right now Lakeland Police have about five gangs they consider active in the city.

Related: Lakeland gang shootings prompt community meeting

Related: Lakeland Police trying to tackle gang activity

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