It's a first in at least 34 years
By Jay Meisel
FORT PIERCE - As Fort Pierce Police officials looked over a book listing murders for each year during the past 34 years last week, a trend became apparent.
During past years, the city had its first murder in January. And in most others, someone was killed in February or March.
But this year, for the first time since at least 1978, the city has had no murders during the first six months of the year.
"We are pleased there have been no homicides in the first six months of the year," said Sgt. Dennis McWilliams, public information officer.
But, he said, the trend of having no murders "could change any minute."
Fort Pierce Police Detective Charles Donnon said he believes one factor behind the lack of murders is police efforts targeting gangs.
Police believe "a core group of individuals," have been responsible for a lot of the violence in the city, he said.
"We've really targeted these individuals," he said.
Many of these individuals were arrested and charged with violating the state's racketeering law, which involves organized criminal activity, Detective Donnon said.
Sgt. McWilliams also said summer operations targeting gang activity have been successful.
Last year's operation resulted in dozens of guns being removed from the streets, he said.
"The people who had these guns did not have the opportunity to use them to kill someone," he said.
With the success of those operations, "we obviously want to continue what we're doing," Sgt. McWilliams said.
He said improved medical care in the community is also a factor in the lack of murders.
The establishment of a trauma center at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute means quicker treatment, he said.
Detective Donlon said increased community involvement in efforts to stop violence has also helped.