Despite crashes that have totaled two police cruisers, injured two officers and knocked a house from its foundation, Mayor Dick Greco on Thursday stood by the decision to relax the Tampa Police Department's high-speed chase policy.
"Every time something happens, they ask, "Are you going to change the policy?' " he said. "No, I'm not going to change the policy."
The mayor contended that in the past speeding car thieves who were not being chased by police still have caused fatal accidents. Chasing fleeing felons, he said, is the only way to cut car thefts in Tampa.
"We just can't let people do whatever they want, or we're not going to have a country pretty soon, and I'm not going to change the damn policy," he said. "I think it will work, and I think you'll see some numbers in the next few months" that reflect its effectiveness.
With Greco's approval, the Police Department last month loosened its chase policy to allow high-speed pursuits not only of violent suspects but also of car thieves, drunken drivers and burglars.
Since then, police chases have nabbed a dozen suspects who had more than 80 prior felony arrests among them. They've also resulted in property damage and one accident where a police cruiser hit a light pole. The suspect escaped in that crash, but two officers suffered broken bones.
Last week, a police car involved in a chase careened off Interstate 275, mowed down a chain-link fence and slammed into a house, knocking it from its foundation.
"I just hope that nothing happens, I pray that nothing happens, and it bothers me every time that it does," Greco said. "But I just don't see any other way."