Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

In troubled Nuccio Park area, Hillsborough deputies push for change

TAMPA — As the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office's top leaders crowded into the cinder block community center, deputies dragged in extra chairs, caught off guard by the number of locals who had flocked to the neighborhood meeting.

They are the residents of Nuccio Park, a neighborhood besieged by dismal crime statistics that do not reflect the majority's values. They own their homes. They go to work. They want to feel safe taking walks at night.

"We're hoping to make big changes in this community," district Maj. J.R. Burton announced.

The agency is investing more than $300,000 and thousands of hours into this 2.5-square-mile portion of the county. It's unprecedented, say Burton and Capt. Chad Chronister, who oversees community resources.

"It's a holistic approach," Chronister later explained. "Nuccio is unlike a lot of neighborhoods, which are so transient. They want it to be better."

The agency held the meeting partly to ask for help.

Deputies will need volunteers at the new community center. They want to launch a Neighborhood Watch. They need families to attend various programs, such as movie nights.

The focus is the neighborhood's children. The Sheriff's Office has raised money to fund a new Boys & Girls Club for three years, and they are working with the nearby Robles Elementary to identify at-risk children who could benefit from the program.

The county, including the parks department and code enforcement, and Florida Hospital are also pitching in for Nuccio's revitalization.

"We're committed to this endeavor," Chief Deputy José Docobo said at the meeting. "But we need buy-in. It can't just be the Sheriff's Office."

Nuccio Park has seen trouble for years. Located just south of Temple Terrace and east of Tampa, it's a small tract of land tucked back by the Hillsborough River, easily forgotten — until 2010, when District 1 deputies took a fresh look at the neighborhood. Burton was shocked by the high crime rate, especially for burglaries.

In Nuccio, longtime homeowners live next to low-rent apartments, which sometimes house transient criminals bunking with friends and family members. Pricey houses line the river.

In the '90s, the neighborhood rallied to raze the run-down Moses White Estates, a housing project that has since been rebuilt. It didn't solve all the problems. Just this year, Nuccio has seen two murders.

In 2010, community resource deputy Willie Edom started gathering information from residents. Patrol deputies pinpointed six young men who were committing the majority of the break-ins and focused on arresting them.

This year, county officials poured in resources at a brisk pace:

Code enforcement collected 21 tons of trash in a single sweep. The Sheriff's Office ran a major warrant roundup. The agency sent all of its school resource deputies to Nuccio during the summer for extra patrol — and to clean. They tore down three nuisance homes, Chronister said.

Florida Hospital is talking about offering free to low-cost health care services at the local community center, manned by volunteer physicians. And the Sheriff's Office is partnering with local apartments to work on kicking out the problem tenants.

The Sheriff's Office is also installing seven "Eye on Crime" surveillance cameras in Nuccio — which will be monitored 16 hours a day, just like the cameras in the University Community Area. The recordings will not be saved, the Sheriff's Office says, and the cameras will be obvious, each marked with a large blue light.

But perhaps the biggest change will be the community center. Unused for several years, the building near Robles Elementary is being renovated by the Sheriff's Office. Deputies expect to open its doors next month.

The agency renamed the building the Freddie Solomon Community Center in honor of the late Nuccio-area football coach who was a longtime member of the Sheriff's Office staff.

The Sheriff's Office hired Freddie Solomon's widow, Dee Solomon, to run the center, which will feature special programs such as movie nights and a GRE program. It will also house the Boys & Girls Club.

"The kids have to get some positive influences in their lives," Solomon said. "It's okay to be smart. It's okay to be a leader and not a follower. We need to let them know somebody cares."

Barbara Austin-Lowe plans to help. She decided to pitch in after hearing the Sheriff's Office's plan at the community meeting.

She and her husband moved to Nuccio in 1999. Back then, they were excited about their home. They would go for walks at night. That feeling eventually shifted as, over the years, she watched the community change. She no longer takes walks after dark. Sometimes she hears gunshots.

Like many at the community meeting, she was impressed with the Sheriff's Office's commitment and the focus on children. She hopes it will be successful.

"It's a beginning," she said. "You've got to start somewhere."

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

In troubled Nuccio Park area, Hillsborough deputies push for change 09/07/13 [Last modified: Saturday, September 7, 2013 11:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84

    Nation

    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  2. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General

    Crime

    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.