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CRIME TURNS PIZZAMAKER COLD ON DELIVERIES

Papa John's won't deliver to Bartlett Park or the Old Southeast.

For residents of Bartlett Park and the Old Southeast neighborhoods, the Papa John's menu is carry-out only.

After assessing recent crime statistics for the area, local franchise leaders deemed it too dangerous for drivers to deliver to those homes, which lie in the southeast part of the city just south of Albert Whitted Airport, according to an e-mail sent to the Bartlett Park Neighborhood Association.

The pizza company says it's not safe to offer service south of Sixth Avenue S, but that a drop in crime during the past two years could prompt the company to begin offering service in 2008, the e-mail said.

Managers of two Papa John's stores in St. Petersburg declined to comment, and several attempts to reach the district manager were unsuccessful.

Crime statistics from the St. Petersburg Police Department are broken down by U.S. Census tracts. The statistics for Bartlett Park, a historically black neighborhood where single-story houses line the streets, are daunting. In 2006, four of the 21 murders in the city were committed in the neighborhood, the highest of any area. It also had the most burglaries (169) and the second highest number of violent crimes (200).

Numbers for the Old Southeast, a more upscale neighborhood that sits across Fourth Street S east of Bartlett Park and where some homes overlook Tampa Bay, aren't as clear because it is split between two tracts and takes up only a fraction of each of them. But neither of those sections had any murders in 2006, and combined there were 26 robberies, 72 burglaries and 117 violent crimes.

Domino's Pizza of Eighth Street S says it delivers to both neighborhoods. Pizza Hut cites a lack of proximity in not servicing the area.

Companies face conflict when deciding where to conduct business, said Sharon Hanna-West, a distinguished lecturer of ethics and sustainability at the University of South Florida College of Business Administration.

"There are probably two competing interests really at work here: a delivery policy that does not discriminate versus the safety of employees," said Hanna-West, who teaches "Social, Ethical and Legal Systems" in the master's of business administration program.

"I think that an employer or a business probably has to weigh the two and determine which one is more important."

Domino's Pizza spokeswoman Dana Harville said it's up to individual franchises to decide where to deliver, but regional security advisers track crime data and work with drivers.

"The last thing we want to do is not deliver to our customers," Harville said. "We often have to make different arrangements. Some stores have had to ask neighborhoods if they will meet the driver in a safe location or they will stop delivering after dark."

Hanna-West stressed that service area decisions must be based on current data or experience rather than perception.

"Any prudent employer has to be aware of situations that they put their employees in," she said. "If they aren't, they leave themselves wide open to being negligent."

Papa John's officials cited that reason when they decided not to deliver to a black neighborhood in St. Louis. The decision drew protests from the local chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

While pizza places are wise to put worker safety first, Hanna-West said, being overzealous can raise a different legal question.

"If a company is discriminating based on something other than an actual or real danger, then you've got a different charge both legally and ethically," she said.

Joseph R. Schwartz can be reached at (727) 893-8739 or jschwartz@sptimes.com.

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