Pensacola Police Chief Chip Simmons said at his press conference today that he plans to saturate city neighborhoods with uniformed officers in an attempt to halt a recent spate of gun violence. The effort would encompass the whole city, but would be concentrated on the area of East Strong Street and Desoto, where three drive-by shootings occurred last week.
In one incident, which happened Tuesday night, a 15-year-old boy was shot in the leg. No one was hurt in the other drive-bys.
“We can not tolerate this activity in our city,” Simmons said, “and we will use every last officer in a visible capacity to take action.”
“Officers that are usually assigned to administrative tasks and plain clothes, officers that are usually assigned to follow up activities, or officers that are normally assigned to training activities will be in uniform,” he said.
The chief later said the number of officers on the street would likely fluctuate between 154 – or every officer in the department – and 75 – or every officer in the department – and 125. He evaded a reporter who asked what increase this would be over the status quo. Simmons also said security at Gallery Night, Blue Wahoos games and other events would not be affected.
The strategy will be implemented in the next couple days, Simmons said, and will “evolve,” lasting for at least the next two weeks. “As long as we can, we’re gonna keep this up,” he said.
Mayor Ashton Hayward was at the press conference. When a reporter asked Hayward whether more officers would ever be hired, the mayor did not answer the question.
“We would all like to see more officers,” he said. “We all want to feel safe when we’re down at Gallery Night or at a Blue Wahoos game, and I think the majority of citizens do feel safe. … The last thing we want is people getting shot at, much less killed. We’re gonna patrol every neighborhood. Every neighborhood deserves the same amount of policing, and that’s what we’re gonna do.”
Lumon May, who is running for the District 3 seat on the Escambia County Commission, was present at the meeting. He asked Simmons if the effort would encompass the West side of the city also.
“There has been a history of violence in the Western Gate, off of Pace Blvd. and Cervantes, coming into our city, with a lot of establishments that seem to have a chronic problem,” May said, “Will that be a target … for the systemic problem that we see?”
The police chief assured May that officers would patrol every neighborhood in the city.
“Our intent is not to stop everyone and harass everyone,” Simmons said. “Our intent is to show a police presence. If you’re up to no good, you can expect to be stopped and potentially questioned by law enforcement. If you’re not up to no good, then just wave, and, you know, we’ll wave back.”
Will the strategy work? It’s very similar the “Desks to Roads” tactic used by Sheriff David Morgan in 2011.
The Escambia County’s homicide rate went through the roof in 2010. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office created “Desks to Roads” that put the sworn officers in the ESCO administration in the rotation for patrol duty.
The Sheriff’s Office saw steady decrease in index crimes, which includes crimes against persons such as homicide, sex offenses, robbery and aggravated assault or battery, and property crimes such as burglary, larceny, and vehicle theft. Crimes against persons declined 13 percent from December 2010 to January 2011 and 20 percent from January 2011 to February 2011. Property crimes declined seven percent from December to January and six percent from January to February. (see NorthEscambia.com).