TAMPA — When the newest pop culture fad recently gained worldwide attention, Tampa radio station 93.3 FLZ jumped at the chance to shake things up.
And for a worthy cause.
The station partnered with the Tampa Police Department to produce a "Harlem Shake" video to call attention to the department's neighborhood watch programs.
"Pop music radio is the center of everything cool at the moment," said 93.3 FLZ program director Tommy Chuck. "In that, we want to find ways to help out. We decided to capitalize on the moment."
As the Harlem Shake techno track by Baauer climbed the Billboard Hot 100 chart, individuals and groups from the Tampa Bay area and around the world began creating their own versions of the uncoordinated dance.
The 30-second videos start with one person moving to the Harlem Shake among a crowd of people going about their business. The crowd doesn't seem to notice the solo dancer or the music playing. But when the bass drops, the video cuts and suddenly the crowd is wearing assorted costumes and dancing vigorously.
The radio station asked police officials what they wanted to raise awareness about. Police spokeswoman Janelle McGregor said the department immediately thought of the neighborhood watch program.
"It was a no-brainer because our neighborhood watch members are the eyes and ears of our community," she said. "We want to show the program is in existence and that citizens are part of these groups."
Chuck and McGregor coordinated the video shoot, recruiting members of their staffs and asking neighborhood watch groups to join in.
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The video was shot at the Wellswood Civic Center in Wellswood, a small community near Seminole Heights. Characters in the video include four Tampa police officers, police dispatchers, Historic Hyde Park Neighborhood Association members, Wellswood Neighborhood Watch members and various 93.3 FLZ on-air personalities, including Melanie from The Kane Show, Katie Sommers, Scotty Davis, Brian Fink, VJ Kidd Leow, Jaime Ferreira, and Ratboy and Staypuff.
To get the Police Department's message across using the Harlem Shake's chaotic style, 93.3 FLZ produced a lengthier version than usual, including a simple story line and public service message in addition to the energetic dance.
The video starts with neighbors standing in front of the Civic Center. Children play hand games and a couple waters flowers. A woman with a black ski mask exits the building moving side to side, dancing as she begins her escape with a flat-screen TV in her arms.
The Harlem Shake song begins and children and neighbors stop what they're doing to close in on the TV thief.
When the bass drops, the video cuts to a crowd hopping and dancing. Neighbors are now holding pink blowup flamingos and a bright pinwheel. The crew of 93.3 FLZ appears, wearing masks and wigs. Tampa police appear and apprehend the suspect amid the dancing.
As the music ends, a police officer closes a cruiser door on the suspect. A message about the neighborhood watch program appears on screen: "Working hand in hand to shake crime out of our neighborhoods!"
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McGregor hopes the campaign will encourage more area residents to get involved in their communities.
The video "really highlighted that partnership between community and police," she said.
Rey Cox, Wellswood Civic Association president and neighborhood watch coordinator, says Wellswood has one of the lowest crime rates in the Tampa Bay area because of "nosy neighbors."
The safest neighborhoods Cox has lived in, she says, are the ones where residents have simply kept their eyes and ears open.
"You have to be an activist in order to have a good community," Cox says. "The more active people, the better community you're going to have."