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A MASTER CRIME FIGHTER TO HANG UP HIS HOLSTER

Deputy Chief Bob Guidara is steadfast and lighthearted in his 31-year police career.

The people who work with Bob Guidara at the Tampa Police Department all use the same word to describe him: "intense."

The 6-foot-1 Italian-born assistant police chief is known equally for his frank lectures and his wacky sense of humor - one that makes the seat next to him a coveted spot during otherwise boring management meetings.

In 31 years with the department, Guidara has risen through the ranks from a 24-year-old recruit once called a class clown to a man widely regarded as the mastermind behind some of the agency's most touted crime-reducing tactics.

When he retires Friday, Guidara, 55, leaves a lot of fans and a few critics. He also leaves a job that, even after all this time, moves him to sing in the hallways ("She'll be comin' round the mountain") and scream in mock delight ("Eeeyaw!") when he talks about reducing crime and catching "predators."

"I'm getting myself pumped up," he jokingly deadpanned in his 10th-floor office at police headquarters Monday. "I'm going to have to rescind my papers!"

Shortly after Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio was elected in 2003, police Chief Steve Hogue tapped Guidara to command busy District 3, serving East Tampa, Ybor City and the Port of Tampa.

Under Guidara's leadership - and the banner of his slightly cheesy train-inspired slogan that the district still uses today, "District 3 Express: Cutting through crimes. Have you got your ticket?" - police realized a 30 percent reduction in crime.

As Guidara entertained colleagues with occasional locomotive sounds from his computer, he focused their attention on four pattern crimes - burglary, robbery, auto burglary and auto theft - and put a huge emphasis on keeping track of habitual juvenile offenders.

It was a change that at first made some street officers bristle. They were already swamped. Curfew checks on troublesome teens felt like busy work.

Over time, it paid off. Officers got to know the juveniles, their methods and their families, all of which helped solve and prevent crimes.

"We had major juvenile offenders calling officers to tell them where they were going to be and what would be going on," Guidara said.

Today, those policing tactics are used citywide.

When Chief Hogue talks about Tampa's dramatic 46 percent drop in crime between 2003 and 2008, he cites the "Focus on Four" strategy emphasized by Guidara. "He's always been an idea guy, willing to try new things," Hogue said.

Guidara's brainstorming prompted "Operation: I Know What You Did Last Summer." On the first day of summer, officers stopped at the houses of juveniles caught making mischief the prior summer and warned them to watch themselves - because police surely would.

Among the staff, Guidara is known as a straight shooter.

"Don't ask him something unless you want to hear his truth," Lt. Rob Lovering said. "He's not going to hold back."

He'll tell you what your chances of advancement are, what you need to do to improve them, and go out of his way to tell a street officer when he does a good job.

"He's a terrific motivator," Sgt. P.J. Gray said.

Maj. Gerald Honeywell, who took the District 3 reins when Guidara was named assistant chief last year, had a nickname for the man. "I used to call him the Michael Jordan of majors," Honeywell said.

"We would have issues out in the community and everyone would be screaming about things that would go on. He'd jump in the middle of it, splash around and then he's swimming and the next thing you know he's just backstroking ... and before you know, everything's running smooth."

Guidara always wanted to be a cop. He can't say where that came from.

No one in his family was in law enforcement. He didn't watch shows about cops and robbers.

"I just had this desire to fight the bad guy," he said.

He served three years in the U.S. Air Force and two as a detention deputy for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

In 1978, a Police Department hiring freeze lifted, and Guidara got the call he wanted.

Even today, he likes to think of himself as a "street cop."

Hogue considers him more, a "go-to guy" for all the toughest assignments.

"I'm going to miss him," said Hogue, who is expected to retire himself next year.

Iorio tapped Guidara to be interim public information officer in 2003, a job usually reserved for civilians. Lately, he has been charged with the solemn task of cutting costs.

Guidara won't miss that. Nor will he miss the reality that police officers die in the line of duty. He has helped bury nine.

He won't miss knowing the details of the most heinous crimes. He won't miss seeing the pain in victims' eyes.

"I used to really enjoy life until I knew what was going on," he said.

Guidara said that after 37 years living a structured life behind the badge, he's not making a plan for retirement beyond a few basics.

He wants to spend as much time as possible hanging with his 12-year-old daughter, Giana, and wife of 17 years, Taymy. He's going to get out on his 2007 Harley-Davidson and cruise up to Jacksonville to see his oldest daughter from a prior marriage, Jennifer, 32, and be "Big Papa" to grandchildren Janessa, 4, and Mateo, 3.

And though no one who talked to the Times about Guidara said they can imagine him relaxing for long, he said it's time to disconnect.

Cops have a code they use to tell dispatchers when they're en route to a new destination.

"Big Papa," he said, "is 10-51."

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

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