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Residents, Councilwoman Express Public Safety Concerns

"I am angry now," said Councilwoman Judy DeBella Thomas.

New Port Richey resident Jon Tietz learned last week that someone broke the window of the SUV he drives. 

He also discovered someone had tried to pry open the driver's side door lock and busted a rear window. A window of another SUV owned by the Tietz family was also smashed. Someone had tried to pry open the lock on a door on that vehicle, too.

Tietz lives in the area between the intersection of Congress and Main streets and U.S. 19.

On Tuesday, Feb. 5, Jon Tietz, his mother Carol and other residents went to City Hall. Members of the group expressed concerns about public safety during a citr council meeting. 

The Residents spoke on a variety of issues, including a desire for more street lights and safer alleys. They also expressed concerns about police staffing.

Their concerns caught the attention of City Councilwoman Judy DeBella Thomas, whose house was recently burglarized.

She said she was stunned that the home burglary could happen.

“I am angry now,” she said.

DeBella Thomas, who grew up in Brooklyn, said New Port Richey is not a metropolitan area. It’s “a beautiful little city that has a lot to offer.”

“The fact that this kind of thing can happen...it’s not acceptable,” she said. “It’s absolutely not acceptable.”

Jon Tietz, 24, didn't talk at the council meeting but did talk later to Patch. He says his neighbors were also hit by auto burglaries last week.

He said he was angered when he found out what happened to his SUV, especially because he already tries to take precautions to protect the home he lives in.

“I was upset because it’s a case where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure,” he said to Patch.

He said he thinks the city is beginning to see the results of neglect toward public safety issues. He said he would like to see more street lighting and a greater police presence in the city, as well as a fully staffed police department.

Tietz said there is a lot of foot traffic by his home, where he and his mother live, and that it has been target of crime before.

He wanted to make it clear he's in support of the police department, but he wants the council to do more, including increasing funding for the agency.

His mother, Carol Tietz told the council about $2,000 in damage was done to the Tietz vehicles.  She said that a house nearby is going through the foreclosure process. The windows are boarded up, and the yard became overgrown. Code enforcement got involved, but it continues to look neglected, she said.

“I think it attracts trouble to have a house like that,” she told the city council.  

Denise Szulis, founder of grassroots anti-synthetic drug campaign Save New Port Richey/Pasco and a neighbor of the Tietz family, said she was also the victim of recent crimes. She told the city council windows were broken on two of her vehicles.

Szulis said that what we “really need“ is street lights. “The alleyway that I live on is pitch black at night,” she said to the city council. “The alleyways themselves are a menace.”

She said they need to be cleaned up.

Overall, Szulis said she thinks the police department does an "excellent job." She said police have arrested three people have been arrested in connection with recent burglaries.

DeBella Thomas said it is imperative that the city form a task force or similar grassroots group to talk about public safety concerns. She also mentioned that she had reached out to Madeira Beach to find out more about that city's chronic nuisance ordinance. She'd like to see if something similar might work in New Port Richey. 

“We must take back our city,” DeBella Thomas said.

Burglaries Have Been a Problem

Police Chief James Steffens said there has been a spate of burglaries, both auto and residential, in recent weeks. He said they've occured throughout the city. He said the agency has made some arrests.

Steffens said there are things residents can do to prevent burglary.

"Please lock your doors," he said.

Regarding staffing, he said the department has a vacant position, an officer out and four who are injured. An incredible stress has been put on staffing as a result. Steffens is looking at making hires.

Regarding ideas expressed at the meeting, he said is open to exploring proposals and that he will follow direction given by the city council.

"I'm interested in exploring any options that gives us the best set of tools in the toolbox," he said.

vincent gimble February 08, 2013 at 01:52 PM
Funny. Man shortage at new port Richey OE ? All I see them do each and everyday is wait at the abandoned motel on US 19 for speeders heading south coming down off the bridge. I guess that's the easy way to fight crime, huh?
Hugh February 08, 2013 at 02:59 PM
You do realize that abandoned motel is located in the heart of the area where much of the shady activity is going on around here? They aren't just there to catch speeders. I am fine with having a cop posted up right there all hours of the night.
Hugh February 08, 2013 at 03:05 PM
This place has bigger problems than lack of street lights. All those lights would do is force the scum to victimize another area. Besides, it isn't difficult to install your own security lights. Over in Gulf Harbors we had a problem with nighttime thefts taking place in and around the canals behind the houses. We didn't ask the county to come install lights for us. Everybody put in their own security lights and before you knew it our canal was all lit up and that was end of that.
Shelly February 08, 2013 at 03:50 PM
One month ago my 20 yr old son was assaulted around 6:30 pm in Sims Park. He is lucky to be alive. A group of young teens around 15-16 came around him and next thing he was hit with a blunt object in the side of the head. They stole his phone wallet and bike. He has been in the hospital with facial fracture & rid injuries. He just had to have his jaw wired yesterday and teeth pulled because his jaw was broken on both sides. He managed to get himself out to the street when he woke up from the hit and walked in one restaurant on Main St. He asked them to call his parents that he had just been beat up. They told him to get out he was DRIPPING BLOOD on there floor!!! What is wrong with people... God looked over him that day because a Barber came out and asked him if he needed help and he called our number. Please someone stop this ring of kids someone is going to get killed. This is not the 1st time it has happened in Sims Park. I spoke to someone else that the exact thing happened to her boyfriend with same kind of injuries. There has been nothing put in our papers about these kind of crimes to warn our citizens! I am a Very concerned citizen...
Lori February 08, 2013 at 06:57 PM
New Port Richey and the county of West Pasco is being hit hard, and in my opinion it's due to the drug problems. These people are stealing to keep up their drug habits. We had a bust in our neighborhood on Wed evening with many officers involved. They are doing their best, it is a problem that is increasing.We all need to work as a community and report suspicious activity to the police if we haven't already done so.
Mary Jewell Isolani February 08, 2013 at 07:01 PM
What restaurant treated him that way?
Michelle Fretz February 08, 2013 at 08:40 PM
I am scared to go to Sims Park as an adult... There are way too many teenagers and older kids hanging out all hours of the night...even though the Hacienda is lit up, the park part is till too dark... There should be a curfew... And the new club down on main and the pubs probably doesn't help the matter any...
Lori February 08, 2013 at 09:03 PM
I would like to know also what restaurant was concerned about him dripping blood on their floor....
Shelly February 08, 2013 at 10:47 PM
The restaurant on main st that has rid iron around it. Used to be a gas station.
michael mirra February 08, 2013 at 10:48 PM
Years ago, when my ex lived here with her kids, we used to take the kids who were about 11 at the time to the playground at Sim's Park. We let the kids play in the playground area on their own & we walked along the river & watched the birds, boats, and people walk bye. After a while the kids said they didn't want to go back there anymore because they said the older kids bullied them. Years later, her older son, who had severe behavioral problems & associated with criminal types took to hanging around Sims Park for days at a time sometimes didn't come home. It may have developed into a bad area to go after dark. It's like any City. I wouldn't go into Central Park after dark either. The area is building up & the problems of growing urban influence are appearing.
michael mirra February 08, 2013 at 10:52 PM
Post the name of the restaurant that threw him out so people know which one to boycott. Let them get some bad publicity here for what they did to your son. They deserve to have some mud thrown on their name. Maybe it will cost them some $ if they lose some business.
Tim Henline February 09, 2013 at 01:16 AM
My house has been robbed twice, and my vehicle has been the target twice. In the past thirteen months, my house ha been robbed twice, and the tires on my truck knifed. Three years ago, they threw a paver stone through my windshield. Total damages have exceeded $30,000.00 dollars. Everything stolen had serial numbers, and the damage to my truck the first time was admitted to, but no arrests made. I truly feel like I have been abandoned by law enforcement, If something happens again, I will handle it; The sheriff's dept. is useless. they are like a business. they will not do anything to help anyone unless the dept can make money.They will spend countless man hours to bust someone selling pills, but can care less about people being hurt by these scumbags. Sheriff Nocco, you are a politician, I am glad I did not vote for you.
Michelle Fretz February 09, 2013 at 02:18 AM
@Tim... I myself have video surveillance with cameras angled to catch all comings and goings of my street.... They can be seen on my house day and night... That with alarms and dogs help me out... When all else fails...I'll go postal on em..... Sorry things like that have happened to you and your family... Not a good feeling to have knowing someone has been in your domain:(
Spellbinding Sherry February 09, 2013 at 06:27 PM
If I chose to live on a dark alley and felt insecure in said darkness I would install my own lights. I feel no sense of civic necessity to make me feel comfortable. That said, I like the dark and light polution was something for me to get over when I moved back home, here. Locking doors is a good idea, for certain, though there's also something to be said for creating interactions in the neighborhood which are friendly. If there's an odd vehicle in my elderly neighbor's driveway, I call them to be sure all is well. When my nneighbor's dog is barking out of character, I check on them. A community looks out for one another and wisely secures itself. Streetlights cannot report crime but friendly neighbors can write down license plate numbers snap photos and minimally, take notice, regardless of the LEO's immediate priorities.
Spencer February 09, 2013 at 06:42 PM
Shelly, what's the name of the restaurant and the barber?
Spencer February 09, 2013 at 06:42 PM
Shelly, what's the name of the restaurant and the barber?
Cathy Manley February 10, 2013 at 02:06 PM
Thanks for the posts Shelly. I pray your son will fully recover from his injuries. I'm so glad the man from the barber shop was there!
steve nellis February 10, 2013 at 08:27 PM
I am tired of this stuff going on. The court system is useless. It has become catch and release. It may sound cruel, but some of these juveniles or adults should be executed. Try it at my house I don't care how old you will be leaving in a body bag
Jon Tietz February 12, 2013 at 05:18 AM
It's against city codes to install your own lights on the city right-of-way. We have motion lights on the house but it's impossible to light the whole area without street lights. The city HAS street lights but doesn't maintain them properly and certainly doesn't have enough. We've also suggested LED bulbs which would increase the lighting range of the lights while saving the city money on electricity and also reducing refraction off surfaces (which bounces into windows). Good all around. There is a lot a homeowner can do, but it is up to municipal policy to keep the area safe.
veronica February 12, 2013 at 07:55 PM
I have lived in this town for the past 32 years. I bought a house in down town NPR 8 years ago and have watched it go down hill. I am tired of being outside and watching speeders fly up and down my street. I have a 3 year old that loves to ride her bike. My neighbors get broken into, my vehicles have been broken into, my bike and my boyfriends bike have been stolen. I have now privacy fenced in my entire yard except the very front. I am so sick of the drug addicts and teens thinking they are thugs. I have watched people get chased up and down my street and beaten up in my neighbors yard. This city has lost it. Our police officers do a great job but there is just to much going on to cover all these areas. It is very sad that this is the way our town has ended up.
Jeff February 15, 2013 at 05:52 AM
@Jon. The municipality should allow residents to keep themselves safe. The city has already failed at maintaining the street lights. If it is against city codes for a resident to install their own lights on the city right-of-way then the city codes needs to be changed. After people are freed to protect themselves, if the city can afford it, they can properly upgrade and maintain the street lights. Your statement shows that you are not the city council member that NPR needs. @Sandra. Volunteers are great, but a curfew, seriously? People should, at the very least, be free to be outside and move around the city without harassment.

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