Tampa's new police chief is making her mark. Jane Castor announced last week that she would redeploy officers in hopes of continuing the remarkable 50 percent reduction in serious crime over the past six years.
Castor plans to merge the street-level drug, plainclothes and area detectives units into a rapid-response force that will focus on high-crime areas and work more directly with patrol officers and community leaders on problems specific to each neighborhood.
Castor insists the plan will build on what's already worked. Tampa reduced its crime rate by focusing on burglary, robbery and related offenses that feed more serious criminal behavior. The department also required its officers to be more proactive, and it made police commanders accountable for the results.
Castor's plan will put more feet on the street. It should break down bureaucratic walls and improve communication at the Police Department. It should strengthen an already good relationship between police and neighborhood groups. With officers going without pay raises this year because of the recession, they should at least appreciate that the chief's move will build on the positive image the public has of the Police Department.
The trouble with having reduced crime so significantly is that even a small increase in offenses can bump up the crime rate. But Castor deserves the public's confidence. As deputy to former Chief Steve Hogue, she helped implement the city's successful crime-reduction strategy. Her move, five weeks after Mayor Pam Iorio named her to the job, also should transform how the public views Castor. She has already broken a barrier as Tampa's first female chief, but her plan shows she knows she will ultimately be measured by results.