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Fort Pierce police chief 'pleading with the community' to help curb gun violence

11 shootings in May, which Chief Diane Hobley-Burney admits was 'too many'
Fort Pierce Police Chief Diane Hobley-Burney speaks at a news conference on June 13, 2024, about gun violence.
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jun 13, 2024

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Admitting there were "too many" shootings in May, yet unsure why, the Fort Pierce police chief on Thursday said officers are doing everything they can to curb gun violence, but they need more help from the community.

Chief Diane Hobley-Burney said there were 11 shootings last month and one so far in June.

Since Mother's Day, there have been eight shootings in the northwest part of the city, injuring at least 10 victims and killing at least three people. Multiple victims have been under the age of 18.

In one case, a Fort Pierce Police Department employee, Devin Bradley, 24, was shot and killed on May 18.

"In Fort Pierce, it is perceived that we are getting shots, shootings, just every single night. That is not the case," Hobley-Burney said.

WATCH: Fort Pierce police chief discusses gun violence

Fort Pierce police discuss strategies to reduce violent crime

Hobley-Burney said the police department has been "extremely proactive" with its crime prevention efforts, enhancing patrols, forming specialty units to address gun violence, working with city and county officials to hopefully add additional cameras throughout the city, working with federal partners to bring federal charges to offenders, and working aggressively to improve community outreach.

"The brave men and women of this department never lose sight of what their job is, and that's to keep our city safe and do what it takes to locate and address a threat that is happening," Hobley-Burney said.

The chief emphasized that police are doing their part, but need more support from the community to speak up and help solve crimes.

"Gun violence is not just a police problem. It is all of our problem," Hobley-Burney said. "The community must be involved. Some know who the shooters are. Some know where the guns are being kept. Some witnessed these events and remain silent."

Hobley-Burney on Thursday refused to answer WPTV's questions about the recent wave of gun violence.

At a city commission meeting on Monday, city leaders released community poll results, which showed that only 55% of people feel safe from violent crime. The survey found that 93% of residents polled said violent crime should be a top priority.

St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky, whose district is Fort Pierce, told WPTV journalist Kate Hussey that, as one possible solution, commissioners are looking at raising salaries for law enforcement officers to better recruit and retain them.

Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky frustrated June 2024 .png

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Thursday's news conference came after Commissioner Curtis Johnson Jr. asked the chief for a presentation at Tuesday's Fort Pierce Redevelopment Agency meeting. He indicated one problem is people not cooperating with the police's investigation.

"We need to hear from the chief as well to come and lay out the challenges we are having," Johnson said. "But what also happens is, when they are in the hospital, they don't know anything nor do they want to press any charges or they have no comment."

Johnson said this makes it hard to prosecute suspects. He added he was "disturbed" by the latest shooting involving a 16-year-old girl who received non-life-threatening injuries after a shooting outside a community center near a park.

Commissioner Arnold Gaines said the shooting led to parents pressuring a Little League organization to move all-star games away from Fort Pierce. He said he was "very upset" because it was the first time the specific games to Fort Pierce in 20 years.

"With the last shooting and the news portraying Fort Pierce as this gang-filled place, pressure was put on the director to move the tournament without any evidence of there ever being a situation at one our ball games," Gaines said. “They can’t find one because there's never been one. So we lost the opportunity to showcase to the world based on a situation that had nothing to do with Fort Pierce."

Mayor Linda Hudson said she was encouraged by the community’s support to make a change over the last month.

WPTV has covered two community events where people talked about solutions to gun violence, and protesters asked for solutions at city commission meetings.