Tampa police interim chief hosts first in series of forums on reducing gun violence

Hillsborough County

TAMPA (WFLA) – Tampa’s Interim Police Chief Ruben Delgado hosted the first in a series of community forums addressing the rise in gun violence.

Tuesday night’s public meeting took place at the Jackson Heights YET Center in East Tampa, an area that has been riddled with recent shootings, including the homicide of an 18-year-old man, hours before the forum.

The message from Chief Delgado is that Tampa police officers need cooperation from community members to both prevent and solve shootings.

“We’re working together we’re not gonna solve this alone,” he said.

It has been less than a month since Lamaria Smith lost her 21-year-old daughter Savannah Mathis to gun violence.

“My goal tonight is to make sure my daughter’s name never fades,” Smith said. “I will do everything in my power to help the next family and prevent the next family from what I’m going through.”

Patricia Brown has been on the same mission to save lives since her 27-year-old son Devante Brown was shot and killed in March 2020. She has since started ‘Rise Up For Peace,’ an organization that provides a support system for grieving families and ideas for a solution to these senseless shooting deaths. 

“I beg and I plead and I ask y’all please, please, please put the guns down, please stop,” Brown said.

Brown was the first speaker before Chief Delgado laid out steps his department has taken to combat the issue of gun violence.

He said ShotSpotter technology is alerting police to shootings in the city that are never reported in a 911 call.

In 2021, Delgado said officers have confiscated 1,800 guns off the streets – a 50 percent increase from the previous year. He added officers have been focused on arresting felons for illegally possessing firearms.

Heading into the New Year, Chief Delgado said TPD will redeploy officers to areas hit hardest by violent crime.

“To have a heavier presence in East Tampa, have a heavier presence in Ybor City, getting more officers on bikes and in the neighborhoods,” he said.

Smith told 8 On Your Side police need parents help to prevent the next senseless shooting.

“We birth our kids,” Smith said. “It’s our job to protect them and teach them right from wrong and it starts at home, so the biggest thing I think that would help the community, these parents got to get more involved.”

Tampa Police have charged two men in connection to the shooting death of Smith’s daughter.

Chief Delgado said detectives are close to making arrests for several other homicides, but he stressed they need witnesses to come forward.

The chief said the next community forum on gun violence is likely to take place in the Sulfur Springs neighborhood.

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