Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Public safety

As Tampa Bay area hosts Republican National Convention, crime rate falls

TAMPA — By the third day of the Republican National Convention the world watching was left agog: A grand total of three protesters had been arrested, only one during an actual demonstration.

It was calm. Some said too calm. And that's not even the half of it, law enforcement said.

Crime is down. All over. And no one is sure why.

Tampa police have a theory:

"The city of Tampa is the safest place to be right now in the entire United States," said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

On average, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties saw significantly fewer arrests this week than in the weeks leading up to the convention, law enforcement officials said. On Monday, about 100 fewer arrests were reported than Monday of last week.

There haven't been as many people calling 911 either.

"It's not just arrests," said Hillsborough County Sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon. "It's everything."

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, calls for service dipped slightly — about 4 percent — compared with the same time period last week.

With as many as 4,000 uniformed law enforcement officers patrolling the city, McElroy said it's no wonder.

Typically, only about half of Tampa's 500-officer police force patrols on any given day, McElroy said. But for the RNC, it was all hands on deck. And then some.

That means all neighborhood patrols and street beats were unaffected by the convention, while still allowing the department to focus its efforts downtown.

"Maybe we're just scaring the criminals away," McKinnon said.

Or it could be the weather.

Just as some guessed the oppressive heat and looming rain kept protesters off the streets, officials said that when raindrops fall, so does the crime rate.

"Stormy weather tends to keep people at home," said St. Petersburg Police spokesman Mike Puetz. "People who commit crimes get just as wet as people who don't. And no one likes to be out in inclement weather."

Although there may have been less crime, there were more calls for service in St. Petersburg — particularly people reporting suspicious vehicles or people. This, Puetz said, likely has everything to do with the RNC being in town and "the assumption that people come here to start trouble."

Few arrests have resulted from those calls.

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