Former Tampa Crime Prevention Program Under Investigation By Department Of Justice
Justice Department investigates defunct Tampa crime program
Evan Axelbank reports
TAMPA, Fla. – Standing just a few streets from where a 9-year-old was shot last month, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said one of the city’s former crime prevention programs is now under investigation.
Under the “Crime Free” program, an arrest in a shooting like that would have triggered a notice to an apartment complex landlord that the culprit was living there. But 90% of 1,100 people flagged by the program were Black, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) said they will figure out whether the program effectively “made unavailable or denied housing units” to Black tenants.
“When there were questions brought up about the program, we wrote a letter to HUD, and asked them to take a look at it,” said Castor. “We personally believe that if an individual is arrested for a very serious crime like murder, rape, drug trafficking, that that public information should be made available to their landlord.”
The NAACP said the program was too focused on arrests and not prevention.
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“I am glad that someone is watching over the people who are supposed to be looking out for the community,” said Yvette Lewis of the NAACP of Hillsborough County.
The City of Tampa said the program worked, in that crime at participating complexes went down 34% as opposed to 21% at those that were not involved.
“That is a lot of people that are not victims of crime in their neighborhood,” said Castor.
But it also said of 529 referrals to landlords, only eight were evicted.
After the concerns were raised though, the city did scrap the “Crime Free” program in favor of the SAFE program, which is more of an educational tool for landlords to show them how to access arrest information once they’re alerted to an incident in their area.
“We can not accept that our Black residents are more likely to be a victim of violent crime,” said Castor.
The city was investigated by the DOJ several years ago over bicycle stops. That was found to not have had enough of an impact on crime for the program be worthwhile. It is unclear as to when the new investigation by the DOJ will be complete.