Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Neighborhood crime trends reveal surprises


Crime factors into where we buy homes and enroll our schoolchildren. It affects our property values and our sense of well-being.

Throughout Hillsborough County, as in many parts of the nation, crime is down. But it still plagues every neighborhood to some degree. The biggest variable is the type of crime.

To get a picture of the differences, the St. Petersburg Times fused neighborhood boundaries with 2009 crime statistics from Tampa police and the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office. The snapshot that emerges contains several surprises:

• There were more DUI arrests in the suburbs of Brandon, New Tampa and Town 'N Country than in bar-heavy areas like Ybor City and SoHo. The major reason: Suburban roads get more traffic enforcement.

• Shopping malls in Brandon, Citrus Park and near the University of South Florida saw more thefts than WestShore or International Plaza. And all the malls were harder hit than stores downtown, at Harbour Island or at Channelside. In smaller boutiques, police say, clerks can keep a closer eye on their merchandise.

• Despite reductions in crime countywide, Palm River/Clair Mel and Progress Village suffered upticks. Residents there blame the many foreclosures in their neighborhoods, which they say provide tempting targets for burglars and erode a sense of community.

The geography of crime elsewhere was more predictable.

Crime dropped in East Tampa, the University Area and Town 'N Country last year. But all three areas still struggle with drug offenses and violent offenses.

Sulphur Springs had the most murders in Tampa with four, while the University Area had the most of any area in the unincorporated county, with six.

"The University Area is a tough area, but we have to keep in mind that 99 percent of the people who live in there are law-abiding," Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee said. "They're trying to make a living, and they don't want somebody to break into their house while they're trying to work."

• • •

Former Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman ran the city in the late 1980s when the murder rate was four times as high. Since then, she said, the city has grown and redeveloped.

But some things remain the same.

The suburbs, stocked with single-family homes, deal with traffic and vandalism while areas filled with denser rental complexes and subsidized housing, such as the University Area and East Tampa, struggle with drugs and robberies, Freedman said.

"More people out of work, people standing on the corners, it's a whole cycle and it's why crime occurs," she said.

And prostitution remains prevalent on Nebraska Avenue in Old Seminole Heights, which had 165 arrests — more than in any single area of the city or county. This, despite a vigilant neighborhood watch group that patrols the community on foot, shining flashlights on suspected offender.

Tampa police Chief Jane Castor cautions against jumping to conclusions.

"I think that can be a little misleading," she said. "The number of arrests means that we're out there enforcing it on a regular basis so the public doesn't have to see it."

At the other extreme, affluent Tampa neighborhoods including Hyde Park Preservation, Culbreath Isles and New Suburb Beautiful have far fewer issues with crime.

Those neighborhoods hire off-duty officers to patrol their streets at night. Homeowners with big investments in the community constantly watch out for each other.

"If anything looks out of the ordinary, we're not shy at all," said Hyde Park Preservation neighborhood watch coordinator Lincoln Tamayo. "We're an urban neighborhood. We're not in the Land of Oz."

Crime also is low in gated communities in New Tampa, in Cheval and FishHawk Ranch.

In the suburbs and some deep-pocket areas of Tampa, nothing outrages homeowners like vandalism, especially spray-painted graffiti.

"They have a lot of long nice white fences that people like to paint at night," Gee said.

• • •

With a larger population of kids and more high schools, unincorporated Hillsborough has more gang members than Tampa, including Latino gangs in areas including Dover, Wimauma and Ruskin, as well as Town 'N Country.

The fact that crime varies from place to place is not lost on police or sheriff's officials. Both have moved to a more proactive approach that watches for patterns of crime, targets the worst suspects and holds officers, deputies and detectives accountable for the crime that happens in their zones.

It's a big change, officials say, but already it has led to significant decreases in serious crime. Tampa is down 12.7 percent. Hillsborough is down 10.3 percent.

"We're getting things resolved a lot quicker in terms of these offenders that will be multi-crime offenders," sheriff's Maj. J.R. Burton said. "Serial robber, serial burglar — we're catching them now when they've done four and five cases. In the past they could do up to 50 before we may figure out who they are."

Richard Danielson can be reached at (813) 226-3403 or Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or


The overall numbers of crime aren't the only things that have dropped in Tampa and unincorporated Hillsborough County. Both areas also have seen long-term drops in the crime rate. That's the number of serious crimes — murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and vehicle theft — per 1,000 residents.


2000 — 109 serious crimes per 1,000 residents

2009 — 46.1 serious crimes per 1,000 residents

Unincorporated Hillsborough County

2000 — 51.6 serious crimes per 1,000 residents

2009 — 38.1 serious crimes per 1,000 residents

Sources: Tampa Police Department; Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

For more neighborhood crime news, see Crime Scene, a special report in your local Hillsborough section or go to

Crime rates

The overall numbers of crime aren't the only things that have dropped in Tampa and unincorporated Hillsborough County. Both areas also have seen

long-term drops in the crime rate. That's the number of serious crimes — murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and vehicle theft — per 1,000 residents.


2000: 109 serious crimes

per 1,000 residents

2009: 46.1 serious crimes

per 1,000 residents

Unincorporated Hillsborough County

2000: 51.6 serious crimes

per 1,000 residents

2009: 38.1 serious crimes

per 1,000 residents

Sources: Tampa Police Department; Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

Neighborhood crime trends reveal surprises 04/08/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 9, 2010 12:15am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida's school grades improve as educators get the hang of a new system


    Following a trend, Florida's school grades showed strong gains in the third year after the state changed its grading formula and the standardized tests that students take every year.

    After finding out earlier Wednesday that her school went from a low C to an A,  Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates with her students in the YMCA After School program at the school in St. Petersburg. Houston is giving a high five to rising fifth grader Jonaven Viera. Rising 4th grader Jonathan Cafaro is in foreground with his back to camera. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  2. More charges for Tampa Bay area woman accused of getting pregnant by 11-year-old boy


    TAMPA — A woman sexually battered an 11-year-old Brandon boy, got pregnant and raised the baby for three years before a tip led to her arrest, Hillsborough County sheriff's officials said.

    Marissa Mowry, now 25,  had sex as many as 20 times in 2014 with a boy who was 11 when he impregnated her, Hillsborough County detectives allege. [Photo courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  4. Mariners lose lefty Drew Smyly to Tommy John surgery


    SEATTLE — Drew Smyly was the centerpiece to one of Seattle's many offseason moves by general manager Jerry Dipoto. He was a priority acquisition as a proven lefty for the rotation the Mariners believed would thrive pitching at Safeco Field.

    Drew Smyly will undergo Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Seattle announced the diagnosis on Wednesday, ending Smyly's hopes of returning during the 2017 season. [AP photo]
  5. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times