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.