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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.

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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