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Tampa police introduce S.A.F.E to replace controversial crime prevention program

The program replaces the crime-free multi-housing effort that, in some cases, led to evictions.

TAMPA, Fla. — After pushback from the community and some city leaders, the Tampa Police Department has quashed a controversial crime prevention program that in some cases led to evictions.

It will now be replaced with a program called S.A.F.E., a new effort focusing on educating neighborhoods, businesses and apartments across the city while also training them in a number of public safety best practices.

Tampa police say the program includes engaging with neighborhoods, monitoring crime statistics and partnering with law enforcement.

"This is a natural step for a police department whose mission is to reduce crime and enhance the quality of life through a cooperative partnership with all our citizens, Interim Police Chief Ruben Delgado said. "Bringing together citizens, police, landlords, tenants, business owners, and everyone else is the best way to prevent and attack crime."

Police say the new program will replace Crime Free Multi-Housing, another voluntary program. 

The Crime Free program came under fire after an investigation from the Tampa Bay Times revealed, in some cases, it sparked evictions when TPD notified landlords of tenant arrests.

"I understand the police department definitely wants to be safe," said Yvette Lewis, president of the Hillsborough NAACP. "I want to live in a safe community. We all want to live in a safe community, but you know what? You can't violate someone's rights..."

Lewis said she believes the new program is a step in the right direction but would like to see more work done to help those previously evicted.

"This is the same city that did 'biking while Black' and they never apologized for that and they disrupted so many people's lives. And once again, we're here talking about renting while black, which they have disrupted people's lives as well," said Lewis.

"So, in an ideal world, let's work together and compensate these people, talk about how can we fix this, how can we go back and right this wrong part of history that Tampa continues to think is the right thing to do," Lewis added

Interim Chief Delgado said the new program will no longer notify landlords of tenant arrests, but the department is creating a new interactive, public dashboard that will allow people to search for crime reports in their neighborhoods.

"...If you live in a certain community, you can just select your community and it will populate all the activity the police have been doing in your community," he said.

People will also be able to make public records requests for crime reports through this portal.

Interim Chief Delgado also said the police department will be working with various community-based social programs to make sure people are aware of the resources available to help. 

He said, unfortunately, most times police encounter kids and teens through arrest, but if resources are available to help them, they may be less likely to engage in criminal activity.

During a presentation from the interim chief on Thursday, council members praised TPD for working with the community while maintaining public safety as a priority.