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Alexandra Zayas, Times Staff Writer

Alexandra Zayas

Alexandra Zayas won the 2013 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting, the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism and was a finalist in the Pulitzer Prize for her three-part series "In God's Name," which uncovered abuse at unlicensed religious children's homes across Florida. A reporter on the Tampa Bay Times' investigations team, Zayas graduated from the University of Miami and has written for the Miami Herald and the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. She joined the Times in 2005, and lives in Seminole Heights. She has taught classes at the Poynter Institute about finding and telling untold stories.

She's always looking for ideas.

Phone: (727) 893-8413

Email: azayas@tampabay.com

Twitter: @AlexandraZayas

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  1. Federal report: Tampa police bike tickets burden blacks, have no benefit

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — For years, the Tampa Police Department wrote thousands of tickets to black bicyclists and stopped countless more in the name of fighting crime.

    The tactic didn't work, according to a report released Tuesday by the Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

    It didn't reduce crime. It didn't stop bicycle crashes or curb bicycle theft.

    All it did was "burden" black bicyclists....

    Dr. Ojmarrh Mitchell, an associate professor of criminology, offers statistics Monday showing how the Tampa Police Department bike ticketing was ineffective in fighting crime. The Department of Justice staged a news conference releasing the results of its investigation of Tampa Police Department bicycle stop program. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  2. Tampa domestic violence shelter did not get health inspection for six years

    News

    TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Health Department did not inspect the Spring of Tampa Bay for six years even though state rules that govern domestic violence shelters require an annual review.

    Brian Miller, environmental administrator for the county health department, said the agency stopped inspecting the Tampa shelter in 2010, when the Florida Legislature passed a law that put an end to many safety checks to cut costs....

  3. Woman says Tampa domestic violence shelter put secrecy before safety when her child was molested

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — A year after her husband punched her in the face, Taneka Rodman called the police again. This time, she told them, he dragged her to the ground by her neck. This time, she'd had enough.

    The 36-year-old mother packed her five kids into their van and drove to the only place they had left to go: the Spring of Tampa Bay, a shelter for domestic violence victims guarded by barbed wire and security cameras. Here, they would finally be safe. Or so she thought....

    Mindy Murphy, chief executive officer of the Spring of Tampa Bay, left, plays carnival games with State Attorney Mark Ober and the Spring’s chairman of the board Yvonne Fry at a circus-themed benefit for the domestic violence shelter in 2012. Ober and Fry played auctioneer for 250 guests at the cocktail party at the Ritz Ybor, helping to raise nearly $30,000.
  4. Woman's account of fatal police shooting contradicts official account

    Crime

    TAMPA — Shakira Rodriguez lay on her belly in the dirt, on the bank of a thick, dark swamp as Tampa police closed in, hiding a few feet away as a German shepherd police dog bit her boyfriend's face.

    She says she saw everything that early morning of Oct. 26:

    Tampa police Officer Jimmy Houston approaching from dry land, yelling, "Don't move! Don't move!"

    Kobvey Igbuhay pinned on his back, struggling to free himself from the dog....

    Kobvey Igbuhay was fatally shot by a Tampa officer who said he tried to drown a police dog.
  5. The big reason Tampa police write so many tickets: They're told to

    Crime

    You may not know it, but your odds of getting in trouble skyrocket in Tampa.

    No valid license? You're twice as likely to get a ticket than in the rest of Florida.

    No proof of insurance? Also double the chance.

    Tampa police wrote more tickets last year than sheriff's offices in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties combined; more per capita than cops in Jacksonville, Miami, St. Petersburg and Orlando, the state's four other largest cities....

    Tampa police wrote more tickets last year than sheriff's offices in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties combined; more per capita than cops in Jacksonville, Miami, St. Petersburg and Orlando, the state's four other largest cities. And no other law enforcement agency in the state arrests more people than the Tampa Police Department. Once you understand how the department measures officer productivity, it's easy to see why. Each arrest, each ticket, feeds into a formula that calculates an officer's "productivity ratio" - number of hours worked divided by the number of tickets and arrests. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times}
  6. No conflict here, move along now: Tampa's parks dept. steers no-bid purchases to company that employs director's wife

    Blog

    The city has purchased tens of thousands of dollars in playground equipment from a company that employs the wife of Tampa's parks and recreation director.

    High-ranking city officials knew about the relationship and approved of it. A city attorney says there is no problem with the arrangement.

    Under Greg Bayor, the city has purchased playground equipment six times from Dominica Recreation Products, where his wife Gini is a territory manager on the sales team....

  7. Tampa buys playground equipment from company that employs parks director's wife

    Local Government

    TAMPA — The city has purchased tens of thousands of dollars in playground equipment from a company that employs the wife of Tampa's parks and recreation director.

    High-ranking city officials knew about the relationship and approved of it. A city attorney says there is no problem with the arrangement.

    Under Greg Bayor, the city has purchased playground equipment six times from Dominica Recreation Products, where his wife, Gini, is a territory manager on the sales team....

    Greg Bayor is Tampa’s parks and recreation director.
  8. Tampa police chief explains decrease in bicycle tickets

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward attributes his department's decrease in bicycle ticketing to a message he communicated to officers after he was installed in May:

    "Education first... Focus on neighborhood relationship building."

    It's his philosophy, he explained Thursday as he presented the numbers to Tampa City Council.

    Bike stops for this month are down 57 percent from last year, 1,054 to 450....

    Renaldo Longstreet, 34, right, and his friend Quinn Hayes ride their bikes on N Rome Avenue in West Tampa on Tuesday, August 18, 2015. The Tampa Police Department has slowed issuing citations for not having proper bike lights after a Tampa Bay Times investigation found a racial disparities among those who received tickets. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES]
  9. Summer marked by slowdown in bike ticketing by Tampa police

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Tampa police dramatically decreased their bicycle ticketing after a Tampa Bay Times investigation this spring found stark racial disparities in the long-standing practice.

    Police gave out 59 bike tickets from May through July, fewer than any other summer in more than a decade, according to department records. A Times analysis found Tampa police wrote three times more tickets in the same period last year....

    Renaldo Longstreet, 34, right, and his friend Quinn Hayes pedal their bikes Tuesday on N Rome Avenue in West Tampa. “Quinn and I had our bikes flipped by Tampa police three months ago, but we were never given tickets for no lights,’’ Longstreet said. A decline in bicycle tickets comes in the wake of a Times investigation published in April that found Tampa police issued more bike citations than any other law enforcement agency in Florida.
  10. Civil rights groups want new police chief to freeze bike ticketing

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Just after Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced the city's new police chief, representatives of social justice organizations gathered in a park across from police headquarters to once again demand officials suspend bike ticketing practices that have led to stark racial disparities.

    The advocates said they are encouraged that the mayor tapped Assistant Chief Eric Ward to lead Tampa police after Chief Jane Castor retires next week....

    Terrance Hyman of Tampa Bay Academy of Hope said Thursday that he has students who’ve been stopped by the police.
  11. Despite civil rights groups' request, Tampa police will keep writing bike tickets

    Crime

    TAMPA — The Tampa Police Department will not stop writing bicycle tickets, despite a request from a dozen civil rights organizations and faith leaders concerned about racial disparities reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

    On Thursday, local chapters of organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and the NAACP sent a letter to Mayor Bob Buckhorn asking that Tampa police freeze enforcement of bike offenses pending a review by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services....

  12. Mayor, Tampa police ask feds to review enforcement of bike laws

    Public Safety

    TAMPA

    The U.S. Department of Justice will review the Tampa Police Department's enforcement of bicycle laws after a Tampa Bay Times investigation found 79 percent of the agency's bike tickets go to black residents.

    Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Wednesday that he and police Chief Jane Castor asked federal officials to review the program because their expertise can "bring clarity to us and to the community and may help evolve our current strategies."...

    Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor briefs the media on her departments crime reduction initiatives and addresses the recent high rate of bike citations issued in east and west neighborhoods on Wednesday.
  13. Are Tampa police violating civil rights law with bicycle stops?

    Public Safety

    Tampa City Council Chairman Frank Reddick called Monday for an investigation into whether the Tampa Police Department is violating civil rights law with its long-standing practice of targeting poor, black neighborhoods for bicycle tickets.

    Reddick said he wants police Chief Jane Castor and Mayor Bob Buckhorn to publicly answer questions about how officers are handing out tickets.

    Reddick's call was in response to a Tampa Bay Times report on Sunday that revealed police have been using bicycle law as an excuse to stop, question and search riders in high-crime neighborhoods. ...

    A Tampa Bay Times investigation found that some African-American bicycle riders have been stopped more than a dozen times over the years, and some three times in one day.
  14. How riding your bike can land you in trouble with the cops — if you're black

    Public Safety

    If the tickets are any indication, Tampa residents must be the lousiest bicyclists in Florida.

    They don't use lights at night. Don't ride close enough to the curb. Can't manage to keep their hands on the handlebars.

    In the past three years, Tampa police have written 2,504 bike tickets — more than Jacksonville, Miami, St. Petersburg and Orlando combined....

    [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
  15. 'The Walking Dead' recap: Episode 7, 'Crossed'

    Blog

    There are two kinds of human evil in The Walking Dead's zombie apocalypse. We're well-acquainted with the obvious breed: the one-eyed Governor, the dreamboat cannibal - both bigger monsters than the corpses limping through the streets. But this season, we've had a brush with a different brand of bad guy: the powerful coward. There's Officer Dawn Lerner, clinging so desperately to her dystopia that she enables lollipop assaults and much, much worse because "the wards keep my officers happy." And there's Father Gabriel, who chose to lock himself in his church with a lifetime supply of Beanee-Weenee while allowing droves of his help-seeking parishioners to become a zombie buffet. Everyone has a weakness. It’s how you deal with that weakness – yours and others'  – that makes all the difference....