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Tampa Police, community hold new annual event to address gun violence

WTSP-TV Tampa-St. Petersburg logo WTSP-TV Tampa-St. Petersburg 5/22/2022 Miguel Octavio

Ongoing violence prompted the Tampa Police Department and the community to gather at Al Barnes Park in Tampa on Saturday for a new annual event named Stop The Violence, Family Fun Day.

The event included music, games, and raffles for families to enjoy. Other organizations dedicated to reducing violent crime were also present.

Community partners and police said they hope building trust and connection with each other are necessary to reduce violent crime.

"That's what this is for right here," said Major Calvin Johnson of Tampa Police in District 3. "Seeing all of us together on the same page, pushing the same message."

The event included a partnership with Rise Up For Peace, led by families who have lost loved ones to gun violence. Many of the families said their loved ones died by being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

"I'm here for them. I'm gonna fight for them as well," founder Patricia Brown said. 

She lost her son Devante Brown two years ago to a shooting. His killer has still not been found.

Aside from activities, the event was also an opportunity to show grieving families that help is available, said Johnnie Johnson of Rise Up For Peace. 

Johnson also said the gathering was also needed because of the recent mass shooting in Buffalo, New York. Police said a white 18-year-old shot and killed 10 people with the intent of targeting a Black neighborhood.

"It's a pain I wouldn't wish on anyone," Annie Kwarteng said.

Kwarteng lost her son Jay Jay two years ago to gun violence. He was 18.

She since started The Jay Jay Forever Foundation, Inc. in his honor. The nonprofit hopes by exposing youth to different opportunities may give them something to look forward to and ensure they're on the right path.

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"We are definitely going to save these kids' lives," Kwarteng said. "We just need to show them they just need a different outlet."

Tampa Police said it's seen 19 homicides so far this year. There have been at least 76 shootings so far, according to its most recent database. 

Murders and violent crime nationwide went up last year

In Tampa, the department said there were 243 shootings in 2021 and at least 45 homicides.

Authorities said the public can provide tips and information anonymously through its TIP 411 line.

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