TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Civil rights groups are calling for an end to Tampa’s crime-free housing program, saying it’s a measure that unfairly puts people out on the streets.
The Tampa Police Department started using the eviction program in 2013.
The program encourages landlords to make tenants sign an agreement that they could be evicted if they’re involved in criminal activity.
“I live in an apartment complex, the residents there, they are afraid,” said resident Yvonne Jackson. “Please don’t take this from us. We need our policing there.”
Several residents spoke during a special city council meeting in support of the program.
Council members also heard from residents and civil rights groups who are calling for the program to end, pointing out a majority of the people facing eviction are minorities.
“Ninety-one percent of the people who were recommended for eviction were Black,” said Attorney Michael Shaw Jr.
Acting Tampa Police Chief Rueben Delgado defended the program during the meeting.
“This is just another program that the city does, the police department does, to keep residents safe,” Delgado said.
A number of concerns were raised during the meeting, including evictions for misdemeanor crimes, and evictions for people whose charges were dropped.
“You cannot police this community by holding housing over their head,” said Yvette Lewis, the president of the Hillsborough County Chapter of the NAACP.
Another concern brought up during the meeting: entire families being evicted because of one person’s crime.
“What about those children that live in that house too? Where do they go?” questioned Lewis.
Chief Delgado admitted that mistakes have been made, but vowed better oversight.
“To say the program is bad based on a few mistakes is not something that is helpful for the safety of the citizens in the city,” he said.
City Council is giving the chief until December to provide more details about the program and show statistics that the program is helping to reduce crime.