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Credit card fraud, gang activity and other crime issues

Vandalism

A lot of the vandalism reports in unincorporated Hillsborough are self-initiated by sheriff's deputies and officials. Community resource deputies carry cans of spray paint so they can quickly paint over racist or hateful graffiti as soon as they see it. Unincorporated Hillsborough had about 84 percent more vandalism complaints than the city in 2009, but it covers eight times the area. Last year, Tampa had 7.8 vandalism incidents per 1,000 residents, while the county had 6.1 incidents per 1,000 residents, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Looking at it another way, Tampa had roughly 25 vandalism incidents per square mile, while the Sheriff's Office had just over five incidents per square mile.

— Richard Danielson
Credit card fraud

Economic crimes, such as credit card fraud are a problem, but not one that local police can gauge. When a credit card is stolen, owners contact banks or banks contact owners — rarely does anyone file a report with his local police department. Still, police have added an additional officer within the past year to deal with the increased reports of credit card fraud, check fraud, embezzlement and other economic scams and illegal schemes police are seeing.

— Justin George

Gang activity

Unincorporated Hillsborough has a population that's more than twice as big as Tampa's, and so it has correspondingly more gang members than does the city. Much of the vandalism comes from gang members who want to tag fences, signs and other surfaces with their insignia.

A lot of the Latino gangs are in areas like Town 'N Country, Dover, Wimauma and Ruskin.

"There's not one high school in Hillsborough County that doesn't have some kind of gang issue or influence in there," Sheriff David Gee said. "Now there are some schools that are much worse than others, depending on where they're located."

— Richard Danielson

Gated communities

Residents of gated communities like Cheval, Avila and FishHawk Ranch shouldn't assume they don't have to be vigilant, authorities say. They do. Criminals can and do jump over or breach the fences in such communities, sheriff's officials said. Sometimes kids in those communities victimize their neighbors. Plus people do come in to cut the grass and provide other services, so residents are not as isolated as they often think.

The homeless

The homeless contribute to crime in areas such as Brandon, the University Area and Town 'N Country. Homeless camps turn up in wooded areas near off ramps from interstates and major roads. These areas often look built-up, "but if you fly over in the helicopter, you see a lot of little lots," Gee said. In each camp, there might be one or two homeless people who are committing crimes, he said. When these camps crop up, the Sheriff's Office gets reports of thefts, such as nighttime business burglaries. But it's difficult to say how many such crimes are committed by the homeless because, nationally, the rate at which property crimes are solved is relatively low.

— Richard Danielson

Credit card fraud, gang activity and other crime issues 04/08/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 8, 2010 3:17pm]
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