With a population of just over 50,000 residents, Pinellas Park, Florida, has a long history, having been established over 100 years ago. At the heart of Pinellas Park sits the Community Redevelopment District (CRD), an area legally established by the city council to encourage redevelopment by designating funds to make improvements in the area and providing local businesses with grants and loans. Within this CRD, Pinellas Park Police Department operates their Community Redevelopment Policing Unit (CRPU), established in 2010.
Challenges and Solutions
Revitalizing a large area of a city requires a combined effort from many parties. Community members need to feel safe in an area that has become less desirable to some residents in order to patron businesses in that area. Pinellas Park PD has played a vital role in rejuvenating the Community Redevelopment District by providing a constant presence and making themselves known in the community.
Purpose of the Unit
The Community Redevelopment Police Unit was established to accelerate the police presence in the Redevelopment District with the hopes of promoting community partnership and camaraderie between businesses, residents, and officers. The unit is made up of one sergeant, one corporal, one Homeless Outreach Officer, and four officers who are assigned zones within the CRD. All officers in the Unit have completed state certification as Crime Prevention Practitioners and employ Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles. The Unit serves a big part in identifying issues in the redevelopment area that require attention.
The regular patrolling of the CRD has contributed to the rise in popularity of retail and entertainment options in the area. The success of the Unit in developing strong community relationships is evident by the fact that their CRPU station in the district has turned into a welcome center within the community. Officers of the CRPU attend meetings, openings, and community events. Further, their presence provides the Community Redevelopment Agency Board with up-to-date insight to inform their decisions about the area.
Community Outreach and Partnership
Throughout the year, the CRPU hosts multiple events at the primary shopping center in the district, partnering with community organizations and businesses. Their largest event is National Night Out. Another popular event is ‘Coffee with a Cop,’ which is regularly held by local businesses and provides officers in the Unit the opportunity to hear from the community. In addition to hosting events, the CRPU also organizes Neighborhood Crime Watch units, who hold more than 108 meetings and events throughout the year.
In addition to the community events that they host, the CRPU participates in the Homeless Street Outreach Project, which consists of five different teams that operate in Pinellas County–four full-time and one part-time team. The Pinellas Park team includes a social worker from Directions for Living, a partner organization that serves vulnerable populations in Florida. The team patrols the city, helping those who are homeless or in need of social services as well as responding to related calls. They have assisted many homeless individuals and families in finding long-term housing.
Since establishing the Community Redevelopment Policing Unit in 2010, the Community Redevelopment District has been flourishing. Between 2015-2016, 76 new businesses opened in the CRD. In that same span, the CRPU made 12,785 contacts with residents and businesses. Undoubtedly, their presence in the area has had a positive impact on the progress of the CRD. Additionally, the work of the CRPU helped earn Pinellas Park Police Department “Honorable Mention” in LAW Publications’ 2021 Community Engagement Awards. The future is bright for Pinellas Park and the Community Redevelopment District.