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Fort Pierce leaders meet to curb recent violence in the city

Posted at 11:57 PM, Mar 04, 2019

FORT PIERCE, Fla-- — People who live and work in Fort Pierce are in disagreement over how to handle recent violence. At a packed city commissioner's meeting, Monday night members from the police department said they are overworked and underpaid, while some commissioners believe using different policing methods would improve recent violence.

"I called this meeting, or at least I attempted to call this meeting because of the phone calls I was receiving and experiencing myself with gunshots over and over and over again," said Fort Pierce City Commissioner Reggie Sessions.

Sessions said he strongly believes more emphasis needs to be placed on the northwest section and that a community policing approach would be the most beneficial. However, Fort Pierce Police Chief Diane Hobley-Burney fired back that they patrol every part of the city using the same methods and despite a narrative going around that certain areas are being neglected, they treat every call the same way.

"The brave men and women of this department can handle whatever situation may arise," said Hobley- Burney.

The meeting that started at 6:30 p.m. Monday didn't end until after 10 p.m. with the majority of the discussion focused on finding a solution to violence, including the most recent deadly shooting that killed a mother of 2. Currently, police say the drive-by shooting remains unsolved.

"How something like this could generate right here in this small city and that we could have those kind of weapons out there in the street, these are things that are alarming to me," said Sessions.

Sessions suggested the city invest in recent technology like shot-spotter, which can notify police any time a shot is fired in city limits providing an almost exact location to reduce response time. The technology is currently used in jurisdictions like West Palm Beach and Fort Myers. However, Chief Hobley-Burney strongly discouraged the idea saying her officers are fully capable of responding to shootings without the technology. Instead, she suggested giving the money directly to officers.

"Give them raises and get us the equipment that we need. This is what I’m asking for when my officers have to jump-start their car to answer a call that’s an issue,” said Hobley-Burney.

The night ended with the mayor requesting to hold a special meeting and workshop to talk about future budgets for the police department. However, the mayor said that probably won't take place until some time in April.