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ARE RAYS BEATING UP CRIME?

Bay area police departments say calls for service fell during the first two games of the World Series.

They're getting credit for a lot of good things lately, but should we be thanking the Tampa Bay Rays for a lower crime rate?

Well, the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office reports calls for service dropped 21.6 percent Wednesday between 7 p.m. and midnight, during Game 1 of the World Series, compared with the week before.

Tampa police reported a similar 17.8 percent drop on Thursday for Game 2.

And the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office saw a 28.7 percent decline on Wednesday and a 36 percent dip on Thursday.

Doesbaseball prevent crime?

Laura McElroy, spokeswoman for Tampa police, liked our less-than-scientific theory.

"If we'd known that America's pastime was this secret weapon to fighting crime we would have sent our officers to baseball practice a long time ago!" she said.

Hillsborough Sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter was less willing to take a swing at it, acknowledging only that there "could" be a correlation between game-watching and fewer calls.

"It's great for the economy," she allowed of the World Series.

And if Carter was reluctant, Pinellas County Sheriff's spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda seemed utterly dismayed: "I can't really speculate about that," she said.

In the spirit of all sensationalized media stories that likely aren't really stories, we decided to dig deeper.

Pasco County stepped up to the plate: Jody L. Kenyon, manager of the emergency communications division there, said calls decreased 18.5 percent over both nights during the game compared to last week.

Hernando County Sheriff's Office reported a two-callincrease on Wednesday and a nine-call decrease on Thursday.

Odd. Did Hernando crooks miss game one? Were they all waiting for the cable guy Wednesday night?

St. Petersburg police also wouldn't play along with the Times' theory that B.J., Rocco and Aki at the plate reduces crashes, detours drug dealers and generally helps otherwise dysfunctional families get along for nine innings.

In fact, police calls in the city went up 27 percent Wednesday over the week before, and 16.5 percent Thursday. But, you know, the games werein St. Petersburg. There was no official word on how much of that increase is because Ferg's bar is right across the street from police headquarters.

For a more global perspective, we turned to Jennifer Colvin, director at St. Petersburg's Little League Southern Region Headquarters. "Wow," Colvin said. "I think you stayed up too late last night at Ferg's drinking too many $5 beers."

Then Colvin, who agrees baseball is a good way for America's youth to spend its time and stay out of trouble, began to question our methodology.

"Do you take into account that last night it was raining?" she asked. "And that the week before it was a full moon?"

Okay. There are holes. For instance, Thursday, Oct. 16, the Rays played Game 5 of the American League Championship Series in Boston. Maybe that's why this Thursday's drop was only 5.9 percent in Hillsborough instead of the 21.6 percent from the night before.

Who can really say.

Let's ignore the doubt and hand the microphone back to Tampa's McElroy, who is clearly a true-blue Rays fan and law-abiding citizen who probably hasn't washed her Longoria jersey since Game 7 of the playoffs. And because of that, the Rays are gonna take it all.

"When the Rays are on the diamond," McElroy said, "everybody's safe!"

Staff writers Jamal Thalji, Jonathan Abel, Erin Sullivan and Joel Anderson contributed to this report.

Fast facts

Crime benched?

Police calls 7 p.m. to midnight during the World Series and the week before.

Wednesdays: (Oct. 15/22)

Hillsborough: 591/463

Tampa: 667/629

Pinellas*: 233/166

St. Petersburg: 189/241

Hernando: 64/66

Thursdays: Oct. 16/23

Hillsborough: 473/445

Tampa: 688/565

Pinellas*: 260/166

St. Petersburg: 181/211

Hernando: 84/75

Pasco added Wednesday and Thursday calls together: 1,199 on Oct. 15-16 and 16.976 on Oct. 22-23

* Pinellas numbers 8 p.m.-midnight

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