TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — When he heard the shots pop out against the quiet of the cold, late evening in December 2021, Michael Randolph hit the floor. He had been in this situation before.
“If you live in violent, poverty-stricken communities all your life,” Randolph explained. “It becomes part of the norm.”
That’s a norm the 66-year-old Robles Park man is trying to change. Growing up in Baltimore and moving to a historically violent part of Tampa, Randolph has become numb to death.
“If you’ve ever been to war before, and you hear gunshots and people getting killed,” Randolph said. “That trauma, that’s what it does to the community.”
That fateful December night didn’t injure Randolph, but it did leave a pinky-sized bullet hole in his home. Within a couple months, two other shootings claimed the lives of two neighbors down the block.
“They’re concerned because they’re more impacted by it than the people that’s looking at the TV and seeing in on the TV,” Randolph said. “They live it every day.”
Randolph is trying to solve the problem, albeit unconventionally.
“It’s got to be a bottom up approach,” Randolph said. “You’ve got to include the street people as part of the strategy.”
Randolph is the Director of Economic Development for the West Tampa Community Development Corporation. He believes crime will decrease with increased economic prosperity and direct communication.
“We cannot lock our way out of this,” Randolph insisted. “Any strategy that involves law enforcement as a strategy is not going to work. We cannot arrest our way out of this.”
His organization is hosting a ‘Reducing Street Violence” virtual event on October 31, where other community leaders from around the country will speak on how they reduced the violence in their neighborhoods.
“What happens most times is that people talk about what’s going on in crime,” Randolph said. “But they’re not talking to the people that’s part of it.”
Randolph says his plans for a job creation center will help pull fingers off triggers, as well as speaking directly to those who have their fingers on triggers already — figuring out what they need to stop acting out.
“Even with all the madness that’s going on,” Randolph said. “There are solutions.”