Tampa Police Department to replace controversial Crime Free Multi-Housing program

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa’s interim police chief presented a new crime prevention initiative to Tampa City Council Thursday, aimed at cutting down crime in communities.

Interim Police Chief Ruben Delgado introduced Safety Awareness for Everyone, SAFE. It’s a new crime prevention initiative for neighborhoods, businesses and apartment complexes in the city.

The technology will allow landlords and community watches to easily access info they need about crime in their area through a dashboard so they can take preventative measures.

It’s replacing the city’s Crime Free Multi-Housing program, which has been at the center of controversy.

Crime Free Multi-Housing served rental complexes and helped significantly reduce the crime rate in a number of formerly crime-ridden apartment complexes. It encouraged landlords to make tenants sign an agreement saying their landlord could evict them if they’re involved in criminal activity.

Landlords received that information from officers.

Earnest Johnson spoke at the city council meeting Thursday. He pointed out majority of the people who face eviction are minority.

“In Tampa, you get arrested and you’re guilty, kicked out of your home, your lose your job, this is a tragedy in Tampa,” Johnson said. “This is not an easy thing on any human being to be kicked out of their home.”

Delgado told city council officers will no longer send emails to landlords and neighborhood watches.

“This program is really just the awareness for the landlords, neighborhood watch leaders, to see what’s happening where they live and help engage with us how to keep their neighborhood safe,” Delgdo said. “The whole goal for this program is to create a safe neighborhood, the level of quality of life shouldn’t change, and they deserve the same opportunities as anyone in the city.”

Civil rights groups called for an end to crime-free housing, saying it unfairly puts people on the streets. An email from Tampa Police Department says, “The Tampa City Attorney’s Office looked at 529 notices of arrest provided to property managers participating in that program over the past five years and cross-checked them to public eviction records.  Only EIGHT eviction cases were filed, and NONE of those were based solely on a notice of arrest. Four of the eviction cases made no mention of any arrest notice, and four were based on criminal activity and non-payment of rent.”

Johnson says although the city is moving in this new direction, it doesn’t change the past.

“What about the compensation for people who have already been abused by this, kicked out, homeless, family in disarray,” Johnson said.

Delgado told city council the program and dashboard should go live by the beginning of the year.

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