Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Feeling safe at home takes some effort

One Wednesday night last September, I turned in a story and drove home to Old Seminole Heights. Then, for the first time ever, I padlocked the gate.

I'd spent the entire day writing about Joseph Frye, a rapist fresh out of prison who lasted 27 days in the free world before he was accused of breaking into the home of an elderly woman, threatening her with a screwdriver, taking her gun out of her hand and raping her at least three different ways.

In my neighborhood. On a nicer street, at that.

I dead-bolted the front door.

I locked my bedroom door.

In the back of my mind, I felt a little silly taking all of those precautions. I counted the hundreds of other houses between mine and the crime scene. It helped me fall asleep.

The following day, I had already taken off to another assignment when I got a phone call from my editor. She told me Frye had been captured at a neighborhood motel.

The one on my street. A block away from my house.

I didn't feel silly anymore. I felt scared.

Coming from Miami, where it felt like people killed, raped and maimed strangers all the time, I found a kind of comfort when I moved to Tampa and covered crimes which, in many cases, involved people who knew each other. I didn't belong to a gang. I wasn't involved in an abusive relationship. I felt I was exempt.

Last fall proved me wrong. A University of Tampa student was shot dead near campus. A woman was attacked, police say, in an Ybor City parking garage in the middle of the day.

I now know better.

I'll walk every inch of downtown by myself during the day, but at night, I'll ask a security guard to escort me to my car. I'll circle Ybor City a few times to get the perfect street-side spot so I don't have to maneuver shadowy garages alone.

I don't sleep with the doors unlocked like my friend in Palma Ceia does. I never did that — even when I lived in Hyde Park, where the number of registered sex offenders within a 1 mile radius is one.

Where I live now, an urban corridor dotted with cheap motels, it's 51.

Do I feel safe in my neighborhood? The answer is yes — with conditions.

It's a place where residents shine flashlights on hookers and keep cops on speed dial. Where police send out crime alerts. Where my neighbors look out for me and my mailman knows my name.

But that doesn't mean I don't lock the doors, even when my dogs are in the yard. Or that I don't look out the window every time they bark to see why. Or that I still don't break out that padlock, depending on the news of the day.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Feeling safe at home takes some effort 04/08/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 8, 2010 2:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  2. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle

    World

    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  3. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators

    National

    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.
  4. Baghdad orders Kurdistan region to hand over borders, ports

    World

    BAGHDAD — Iraq's central government in Baghdad ordered the country's Kurdish region to hand over all border crossings and airports to federal government control late Sunday night, hours before the region is set to carry out a controversial referendum on support for independence.

    Iraqi Kurds climb the fence into a soccer stadium during a rally in Irbil, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, on Friday. Kurds will vote in a referendum today on the creation of their own country.
  5. Official: Hurricane Maria set Puerto Rico back decades

    Hurricanes

    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico's nonvoting representative in the U.S. Congress said Sunday that Hurricane Maria's destruction has set the island back decades, even as authorities worked to assess the extent of the damage.

    National Guardsmen arrive Sunday at Barrio Obrero in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to distribute water and food to people in need after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Maria. The death toll on the island from Maria is 10, but that number is expected to climb.