This is the blog for Robert Vincent, Chief of Police for the Gulfport (Florida) Police Department. Please feel free to leave comments, but keep in mind that anything appearing on this page may be subject to retention and disclosure in accordance with Florida public records law.

Please keep your posts clean and respectful. Comments are subject to review, and I do not permit lewdness, obscenity, or personal attacks.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Ring App May be Misleading--Be Careful

I was recently made aware of the crime reporting feature on the Ring.com neighborhood app, and I wanted to share some concerns.

It’s great when people have access to information quickly and easily, but that only helps when the information is accurate. What is being shared on this app is simply not.

When I compared the Ring weekly crime report to our own records, I found several examples of incidents that were misreported. The app was also showing reports of crimes of which we had no record. Curiously, the app does not reveal its source for the information it is reporting.

There was also a recent alert about what the app called a burglary in progress. It published this alert in the form of a news release stating that Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office was responding to a burglary in progress in Gulfport. The facts: Gulfport Police Officers responded to a call where a person reported hearing his car alarm going off. When he went outside to check it out, he saw someone walking away. Officers investigated and found no evidence that the car had been burglarized, so they reclassified the call as a suspicious person. 

It is clear that the source for this alert was the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office “active calls” website. GPD uses PCSO for dispatch, so our calls also appear on this website. If you go directly to the source and follow it, you can see as calls are updated to reflect the most recent and accurate information. Apparently the Ring app does not do this, which means a lot of people are not getting the full story.

If you use this app, which I agree has a lot of great potential, please don’t share or rely on the information without verifying the most up to date data directly from the source.

Thank you.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Why is Neighborhood Watch Important to YOU?

Today is today.  Today we do not live as we did yesterday, last week, last year, five years ago or twenty years ago.  Our lives and the way we live change by the minute.  No longer can we just sit and wait for something to happen good, or bad. Everyone, you included, has a responsibility to keep the community safe.

Bad things happen everywhere, and Gulfport is no exception. Every day in our town, people are victims of theft, burglary, scams & frauds, and other crimes of opportunity. The truth is, however, most of these things go completely unnoticed by the majority of people. Gulfport is a small and close-knit community, and our police do a great job of making people feel safe. That sense of safety is certainly welcome, but it can be exploited by those with bad intentions.

Not only common thieves, but even organized criminals and terrorist groups specifically target such communities. They feel as though they can work in relative anonymity, shielded by the ambivalence of most residents. In order to fight this threat, the community must work together in its effort.

Neighborhood watch is what brings us together. In simple terms, it’s about looking out for ourselves and others.  Participants learn to always be on guard for any sign of suspicious activity, problems, people and things that just do not seem right. Our members come together to talk about what is happening, what is different, and what is changing. Everyone comes together to learn about and from each other.  The more we know, the more we can be prepared to handle the rapidly changing times we live in.

This concept of “watching and sharing” may be new for many, and change is often unwelcome. This, however, is change that we can control and use to make our lives better, safer and stronger. Neighborhood watch is not a social club, but a gathering of citizens, residents and most importantly, you.  You can make the difference in what happens to you and others. Please join your friends and neighbors, come out and share, learn and get involved.

It’s your community. 

Contact Jim Wright, Volunteer Coordinator

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Going to the Dogs

I get a lot of questions about dogs. In particular, folks want to know what the city can do when it comes to stray dogs or those that are otherwise on the loose in public. Since the answer can be kind of complicated, I thought it would be best to write it up and publish it as a kind of reference.

First, it is always illegal to allow any dog to be off leash on any public property or on the property of another person without permission. This is a violation of the Gulfport City Code. Any time a Gulfport officer responds to a call about a loose dog, he or she will attempt to identify an owner who can be held accountable. This can be easy if the dog is properly tagged, and if the officer can catch the dog. We have some basic training and equipment for this purpose, but we are not professional animal trappers. However, if we can’t round up the dog in a reasonable time, we’ll have to move on to more important matters. Also, unless there is evidence that the dog is being aggressive towards humans, we won’t use weapons to stop the dog. Catching strays is something we try to do when we can, but it’s simply not our mission.

Pinellas County government has an animal services unit, but they will not pursue non-violent strays either. They will respond and collect any stray dogs that have been caught and restrained, but the bottom line is that there is no “dog-catcher” in Pinellas County or the City of Gulfport.

When we can identify the owner of a loose dog, officers will check for prior violations and can issue citations for violations when appropriate. If the report involves an attack of some kind against a person or another domestic animal, the officer will document the incident appropriately. When evidence accumulates to prove that a dog has repeatedly been violent, the dog may be declared dangerous under Florida law. Once such a declaration has been imposed, the owner may face criminal charges for future violations, and the dog may be seized and euthanized. 

In the past year, Gulfport officers have responded to 477 calls concerning issues with animals.