Pinellas News

St. Pete tries mounted officers after incidents along corridor

City police plan to amp up patrols on the Pinellas Trail by using their biggest officers, Brooklyn and Jacob.

The Percheron thoroughbred cross horses each weigh about 1,400 pounds, making Officer Ron Try about 9 feet tall at the shoulders on horseback, a height that lets him see a long way down the trail.

The police department announced Thursday it would be utilizing 11-year-old Brooklyn and 9-year-old Jacob to survey the Pinellas Trail in St. Petersburg. Criminal activity on the trail has been in the spotlight recently following the death of Lydia Ann Tross, who is said to have been murdered near the trail in Clearwater where her body was found Aug. 5

Try called his horse “1,400 pounds of sneaky,” at the first patrol Thursday evening near the Childs Park YMCA. “People aren’t expecting us to come up,” he said.

The horses typically are used downtown, where officers ride them to help see above the crowds. While the size is intimidating close up, he said officers on horseback can be more approachable than those in a vehicle.

“We do have limitations ... I can’t throw my horse down and go after people,” Try said, however he noted he doesn’t need to get off the horse to make an arrest.

The timing of the patrols will vary and will be carried out at random, and Maj. Phil Beahn said he isn’t sure how long the mounted trail patrols will go on.

“We just want to see how it works and we think it’ll work pretty well,” he said. The trails are monitored regularly with other patrolling methods, he said, and thinks the horses will be a “valuable deterrent.”

Police spokesman Mike Puetz said the department looked at getting cameras for the trail as another way to monitor activity, but none have been purchased.

The gear the horses wear is pretty standard, said Officer Julie Bryan. They are outfitted with a normal saddle, boots that allow the horses to walk on any terrain without suffering injuries from stepping on objects like broken glass, and a saddle bag to hold paperwork.

While the horses can be expensive to maintain — needing a stable and trailers to transport them — Puetz said the advantages outweigh the costs.

Try, who has been riding since the horses came to the department five years ago, said he has formed a relationship with the animals. Since he is only one of the four officers on the force that rides, he can tell when the horse is in a bad mood or isn’t feeling well.

“It’s a blast,” he said. “He’s the rock star, we’re just the agents.”

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