St. Lucie officials going out of state to battle gang problem

Federal Office of Juvenile Justice holds training

Gunfire became an all too common sound on the streets of Fort Pierce last year. City police and St. Lucie County deputies investigated 135 shooting incidents in 2013.


Most of them were gang related.


Now a roundtable of community leaders is heading west to learn the latest tools in fighting gang violence.


Linda Jones middle child Charles, was killed New Years Eve 2011.  


No one has been arrested for his murder.


"He was shot five times and left there. It's been a long ride," said Jones from the front porch of her home on Fort Pierce's northwest side. 


While she's unsure if gang activity was involved, police in Fort Pierce say gangs were responsible for a sharp rise in violent crime last year.


"There's a lot of work to be done. We're not satisfied when there's one homicide, one shooting," said Deputy Chief Frank Amandro. 


Between 1997 and 2012, violent crime dropped 70 percent in Fort Pierce. But last year, 56 people were injured and six were killed by gunfire.


"We're looking to get deeper to find the issues that cause gang membership. Things like poverty and education," said Fort Pierce police chief Sean Baldwin. 


This week, Chief Baldwin is in Texas for anti-gang training sessions put on by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Protection.


"We're really going to learn what other communities are doing to address the problem so we can bring that back home," said Chief Baldwin. 


In recent years, Fort Pierce police established an anti-gang task force that  worked primarily during the summer months when kids were out of school. But in the wake of all the shooting incidents last year, they're working year round now.


After her son was killed, Linda Jones set up a support group.


"To get you through the mornings, the afternoons, the birthdays, the times you miss them the most," said Jones.


She hopes to see an end to the gun violence and gang violence in her city.



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