BRADENTON - Police around the Suncoast often say a challenge they face is forming meaningful relationships within communities hit hard by crime. People ABC 7 spoke with Monday say there's often a level of mistrust between communities and police, but that they think there are ways to hopefully forge new relationships.
Not long after a man was gunned down in a Bradenton driveway Sunday night, Akeem Richardson was stopped by police. "They were asking us questions, if we knew any shootings around here, but we told them no," said Richardson.
He says he never has much contact with police, and that if he had a problem, he's not even sure he'd feel comfortable asking them for help.
"I don't know," said Richardson, "I think I would but...it's kind of like fifty-fifty."
It's a feeling that's not entirely uncommon among citizens in neighborhoods hit hard by crime.
"I would say they're a little leery of them," said Jennifer Firman, who lives near Sunday night's shooting scene, and says police patrols are normally few and far between. "I would like to see more police presence in this area, because honestly I don't see much unless something's going on."
Residents we spoke to say people don't trust the police because they don't have a visible presence. "I don't think as a whole, the public trusts them as much as they used to," said Karla Pirillo, another Bradenton resident.
Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube is known for holding events to build trust between authorities and the community, but some say more needs to be done.
"Have more of them on bicycles so they can converse with the neighborhood," said Pirillo.
Jennifer Williams say that's a sight that hasn't been seen in North Sarasota in a long time. "Every blue moon I might see them walking," said Williams, who lives in Newtown, "they used to ride the bicycles, they not doing that anymore."
She's says there used to be better relationships between authorities and the neighborhood.
She thinks simple steps can do a lot when it comes to mending fences and keeping everyone safe. "They can walk more, get out of their cars and talk to the kids," said Williams.