Nearly every year since 2003, Tampa Police have championed a drop in the crime rate from the previous year, commensurate with a nationwide reduction in crime.
That trend continued Monday, with the Tampa Police Department reporting that violent crime was down 16.5 percent in Tampa in 2016 compared to 2015.
Property crime was also down 6.8 percent over the same time period.
“It’s a team effort,” said Mayor Bob Buckhorn at a news conference at TPD’s downtown headquarters. “It’s not just the men and women of the Tampa Police Dept. It’s not just how we deploy, it’s not just how we use data to analyze crime, it’s not we track it, it’s not necessarily how we equip our officers … this police department is as progressive and as data driven as any department in the country.”
Buckhorn singled out the city’s ‘Stay & Play’ program, launched in 2015 after a series of shooting deaths in poor neighborhoods as a stabilizing factor in reducing crime.
Stay & Play is a summer program at recreation centers and city pools around Tampa.
“Over 100,000 kids have taken advantage of Stay & Play,” he said. “That means that they are now in a safe environment when they used to be in the streets. They are now under the guidance of our Parks and Recreation employees and coaches and mentors, and they are not out there being seduced by the gangs, with potentially being either victims or perpetrators.”
Chief Eric Ward chose to site the reduction crime to 2011, the year that Buckhorn was first elected mayor. From 2011-2016, crime has gone down 24 percent in Tampa.
“That doesn’t happen overnight,” Ward said. “It takes a lot of work, and contributing factors are all the men and women from TPD and our community coming together to work to solve this issue.”
Property crime was up 6 percent in the city’s SoHo District, a statistic that officials say is about the number of people who park in the entertainment district and leave their doors unlocked, allowing for easier access for criminals to steal.
Property crime was up by 1 percent in the Sulphur Springs area.
In Ybor City, violent crime was down 14.6 percent, and property crime an astounding 44 percent. There were 62 fewer property crimes in Ybor in 2016 from 2016.
“We know we have the attention of the police force, and we’re willing to form partnerships as well,” said Courtney Orr, manager of the Ybor City Development Corporation. That includes the “Coffee with a Cop” program the TPD introduced last year in Ybor City.
Femi Kennedy, the property manager of the Jackson Heights apartment complex, praised the relationship he has with members of the TPD, saying that he has “probably 15 or 16 officers phone numbers in my cellphone that I can pick up at any time and call them and a get a response.”
“We’ve gone from a crime infested, violent fueled community to one where kids are outside playing … and people feel they can sleep better at night,” said Kennedy. “Simple things like that go a very, very long way.”