Search

City News Blog

rss

The latest happenings in your city government.


LAKELAND POLICE DEPARTMENT PARTNERS WITH THE LEDGER

TO SOLVE COLD CASE CRIMES

 

 

LAKELAND, FL (May 28, 2014) - The City of Lakeland Police Department is teaming up with The Ledger to present information to the community regarding 40 unsolved cold cases that they are trying to solve.  Lakeland Police Department Chief Larry Giddens said, “Some of these crimes go back decades and we are pleased to be working with The Ledger to help solve these cases.” He added, “Perhaps we can get a lead or as we share information, someone will remember a detail that will be just the spark that we need to close a case.”

 

The Ledger will be publishing a three-part series on the City’s cold cases and unsolved murders. The series will run Sunday through Tuesday but will continue for months as The Ledger profiles some of the more interesting cases every other week.

 

Lenore Devore, Editor for The Ledger said, “The goal is to bring the community together to solve some of the cases. It’s easy to criticize law enforcement for not solving crimes and it’s much harder when you realize that people with key evidence won’t cooperate. That’s what LPD says it faced for a long time – a community often unwilling to get involved.”  She added “We hop that publicizing the information will make the community more aware and someone will step forward with a key piece of information.”

 

“In the past few months, community involvement has combined with excellent detective work to solve several homicides and shootings quickly,” said Assistant Chief Mike Link. “Things have gotten better and people are calling in tips, whether anonymous or not and that’s a step in the right direction."

 

Law enforcement officials often dedicate years of service to solve murders, battling frustration, fatigue and at times depression trying to clear just one crime. They deal with family members who range from understanding to inconsolable to very angry because of the many questions that are still left unanswered.  Who did it? Why? Was the victim the target or an innocent bystander? Why isn’t there a conviction? Why hasn’t justice been served?

 

The series, titled “It Takes a Community to Solve a Murder,” culminates with a community forum from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on June 5th in the City Commission chambers at Lakeland City Hall, 228 S. Massachusetts Ave.

During the forum, citizens will hear from:

·      Assistant Police Chief Link

·      Cold case supervisor Jeff Birdwell

·      Detective Brad Grice

·      Brian Haas, spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office

·      Local psychologist and Ledger columnist Dr. Berney Wilkinson

·      The Rev. Arthur Johnson

·      The mother of a slain man, Linda Cook Thames 

 

Each panelist will bring their own perspective to dealing with unsolved murders and cold cases, from why some cases cannot be solved quickly to the toll cases take on families and detectives to the efforts made to raise community awareness.

 

This is a chance for the community to get involved in the conversation and to show your support for the Lakeland Police Department. Join us June 5th to hear from our esteemed panelists. If you have a question you’d like answered during the forum, please send it to coldcases@theledger.com; the best questions will be asked at the forum.  


The Lakeland Police Department has a tips hotline that is available for community members to report crime information/criminal activity 24-hours a day, 365 days per year. To access the hotline you can contact 863/834-2549, or e-mail us at tips@lakelandgov.net To report information on a cold case file, contact Lakeland Police through e-mail at coldcasetips@lakelandgov.net


Information is accepted anonymously, or the caller may leave information to be contacted by an investigator. All information regarding reporting persons is held in strict confidence, and shall not be divulged to any party. Remember, it takes a community to solve a murder!

-END-


 


GANG TASK FORCE COMMUNITY FORUM

MAY 2OTH COLEMAN BUSH BUILDING @ 6PM

 

 LAKELAND, FL (May 7, 2014) - On Tuesday, May 20th there will be a Gang Task Force Community Forum at the Coleman-Bush Building starting at 6 p.m. In response to a number of recent gang influenced shootings, a Community Task Force has been established to help find solutions to combat growing concerns about gang activity.

 

Commissioner Phillip Walker, Chair of the Gang Task Force said, “There have been a number of gang related shootings in the last several months and the purpose of the task force is to identify the steps needed to help curb gang membership within the community.”  He added, “We would like to give a Task Force update on where we are to date and share with residents on what they can do to assist us because this issue must be addressed by the community as well as law enforcement.”

 

In a meeting on gang related issues held November 2013, members of the community helped identify areas of immediate need that includes both prevention and suppression tactics. These next steps and an action update will be discussed at the community forum. 

1. Organize and identify 1,000 mentors that can serve as role models to troubled teens. This can include other high school students in addition to college students.

2. Collaborate existing youth programs to make sure each program operator knows and understands the existence, capacity and focus of other community based programs. Assess whether more and different types of programming is needed for 13 - 18 year-olds and identify funding concerns.

3. Initiate a partnership between law enforcement and the Polk County School Board to make sure educators are trained and aware of the critical role they play in identifying students who are being groomed or pressured to be part of a gang.  The community also asked that law enforcement instill a County-wide school based gang education program and law enforcement responded to community concerns with a stronger presence in known gang areas.

Mayor Howard Wiggs said, “We need to have a holistic approach to identify and reduce the number of individuals who look at gangs as the answer to their problems.  The current gang issues affect all of us and we need to work together in finding a community solution.” 

 

LPD Assistant Chief Rick Taylor said, “In Lakeland we have approximately 300 documented gang members and associates. Right now we have 46 listed gangs with four very active gangs operating within our community.” The City of Lakeland asks the community to attend this important meeting as we work toward solutions to curb gang membership and identify resources needed to help reduce gang violence.  For more information on gang activity in Florida, please visit www.floridagangreduction.com and visitwww.lakelandgov.net/RefusetoLose.aspx to get more information on community youth programs and gang related topics.

 


FDOT Promotes “Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow – Safety Doesn’t Happen by Accident” Campaign at Mayfaire by-the-Lake 2014.

 

Bartow – The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) continues its successful “Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow – Safety Doesn’t Happen by Accident” bicycle/pedestrian safety campaign during Mayfaire by-the-Lake 2014 this weekend along the shores of Lake Morton in Lakeland.  FDOT staff will offer bike/ped safety tips and hand out various safety items (while quantities last), from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, May 10 and 11.

 

            In Florida, one in five traffic fatalities is a pedestrian and one in 20 is a bicyclist.  FDOT District Secretary Billy Hattaway is the statewide champion leading Florida’s initiative to reduce fatalities among bicyclists and pedestrians. 

 

“Florida has too many bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities, and Polk County is one of the 10 worst counties in the state,” Hattaway said. “We’re taking steps forward with our bike/ped partners in the county to identify potential treatments and educate people in the community. We need to change their behavior with the goal to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.” 

 

Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow emphasizes four important behaviors for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers on our roadways:

 

  • always use the crosswalk,
  • look before crossing,
  • stop before turning on red,
  • yield to pedestrians.

 

 

“Learning the rules and making sure to follow them every time will help reduce fatalities and injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists.  The state initiative and what it can accomplish is critical,” Secretary Hattaway said.

 

On Saturday, May 10, Lakeland Mayor Howard Wiggs will join Secretary Hattaway at FDOT’s tent directly across from the main food court from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. They will be available to discuss bicycle safety with media and members of the community. 

More information about “Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow – Safety Doesn’t Happen by Accident” is available at http://www.alerttodayflorida.com/.

 

# # #

 

 


Sniffen & Spellman, PA Final Report Released

The Lakeland City Commission concluded the investigative actions conducted by Sniffen & Spellman, the Tallahasse law firm hired to conduct the review of allegations made by the former HR Director, Tommy Hamrick.  During testimony with the Polk County State Attorney’s Office, Hamrick alleged that City Manager Doug Thomas was aware of improper hiring practices made by former Lakeland Police Chief, Lisa Womack.  The Lakeland City Commission requested an investigation based on the 
allegations. 

 

The report has been concluded and the findings/ recommendations will be discussed by the City Commission at the Monday, May 5th City Commission meeting.


Please find the report submitted to the City Commission by Sniffen & Spellman linked below.

 

Full Report from Sniffen & Spellman, P.A      I      Exhibits 1 - 12