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Sulphur Springs had 4 of Tampa's 20 murders in 2009; other crimes down

Scott McMoneagle, a chef, lives in Sulphur Springs and serves as the neighborhood watch liaison. He frequently keeps an eye on Rowlett Park. He says petty crime seems prevalent.

ATOYIA DEANS | Times

Scott McMoneagle, a chef, lives in Sulphur Springs and serves as the neighborhood watch liaison. He frequently keeps an eye on Rowlett Park. He says petty crime seems prevalent.

Historically, Sulphur Springs had also been a hot spot for police. It still had more murders — four of the city's 20 — than any other neighborhood in 2009.

Still, the community had 40 percent less crime last year overall, authorities said, because the department made it a priority.

Police merged their plain-clothes and undercover "street anti-crime" units with "quick uniformed attack on drugs" units to create a "rapid offender control" or ROC unit that responds instantly and fluidly to major crimes.

The strategy was so successful, police implemented it citywide this year.

Scott McMoneagle, the neighborhood watch coordinator, said he can see a difference. The 37-year-old chef moved here from Hyde Park in 2006. City Times asked him about the community that he now calls home.

Why did you move to Sulphur Springs?

When we first moved here, we did some research on West Tampa and other communities. We looked at certain crimes: How many rapes, how many murders, how many auto thefts. We didn't notice a lot of difference between areas of Tampa that were so drastic. We had to consider our income bracket. I would have loved to stay in Hyde Park but we couldn't afford it.

What's a major difference between Sulphur Springs and Hyde Park?

There's a lot of renters in Sulphur Springs who don't seem to be as concerned about the things I'm interested in, such as building community. They're just renting and are in and out of the neighborhood.

What are some of the problems you saw when you moved in?

Litter. Lots of street litter. When people move out or are evicted, all the stuff got put on the street. Any given day, you see huge junk piles. Furniture. Big and small litter.

Have things improved?

Yes. The police are pretty involved here. I'm pretty happy. If residents see prostitution, there's a number you can call to report it.

If you see illegal dumping like mattresses and junk, there's someone to call, too. I see the reports. Police say they have undercover officers looking for drugs. The police are doing a lot with the community, especially kids.

How responsive are police?

Once I saw a new F-150 moving in and out of a duplex across the street that was abandoned. I called the police, reported it and they were here pretty fast. Turned out, the truck had been stolen and they were joy riding around the neighborhood in it.

What do you think about living in a community that had the most murders last year?

It's not a perception. It did happen. I think it's kind of like the outcome of what's going on in society when there's a lot of hard times. There are a lot of poverty issues here. I don't particularly live in fear. I take precautions.

Do you believe crime went down in the city last year despite the economic recession?

I can see it. I don't live and breathe it every day so I can't give you exact statistics month to month. But just by driving around and living — I can see it. I can say that I haven't seen it worsening. I think the only thing that I see worsening is more petty crimes like people stealing A/C units or copper tubing from foreclosed homes, so I see that as a problem.

Justin George

Sulphur Springs had 4 of Tampa's 20 murders in 2009; other crimes down 04/08/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 8, 2010 3:30pm]
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