The West Tampa area has seen its fair share of woes over the years, but is also seeing a sense of revival.
However, the question remains, even if new businesses make their home in areas like West Avenue, is the area’s crime worth rehabilitating?
People who work in the area say they don’t know.
ABC Action News reported the concerns to Tampa Police Lt. Whitney McCormick. In 2009, she made her debut on the streets of West Tampa. She patrolled the area for six years until she was transferred to two other areas.
In February 2022, she was reassigned to her previous route, which she said had changed considerably.
“The biggest change is all the building and all the different areas. Now the businesses here. In 2009, you didn’t have breweries. You didn’t have these private entities starting to bring in their business,” Lieutenant McCormick said.
Despite the growth over the years, those with public businesses in the area say they think twice before staying.
The owners of the Bay Cannon Beer Company have since ceased operations following a fatal shooting that left a woman dead in December 2022. And he’s not the only one in West Tampa rethinking business.
Neighboring employers also held meetings to discuss whether it was safe to open their doors.
Ignacio Torano, who works in an office of about 30 people, is one of them. The space still bears bullet holes in the walls and windows following the shooting in December.
“In effect, the police had to unscrew the panels to remove the bullets and casings,” Torano said. “It’s scary because my desk is about five feet away from this one, and that desk is easily on the road, just walking by.”
The shooting happened over the weekend. In one instance, a bullet went through a second-story window and a computer screen.
“If someone would be sitting there, they wouldn’t be here today,” Torano said.
West Tampa business owners plead for help after latest crime
Torano said the shooting was not limited to the weekend. Once, he saw an unfolded photo in the middle of the day. Block parties and public drinking were also a problem, he said.
Ideally, he said he’d like to see more police presence, saying it’s something that’s lacking in the area.
“You know, I would say no, it’s just that we don’t see the police here. We see the drug activity going on. We see the violence happening, but the police don’t have a presence here,” Torano said.
police remain in the area
Lieutenant McCormick said that even when officers aren’t in uniform, they’re on patrol.
“We have plainclothes cops here all the time. I also spent a few years in a plainclothes unit where we had officers walking around in plainclothes and you would never know they were cops, they were stopping crime all the time and no one knew it was going to happen , because they saw it before it happened,” Lt. McCormick said.
Lieutenant McCormick did not deny that crime is a problem in West Tampa, saying the streets have gotten safer over the years.
ABC Action News is requesting service in the 1900 and 2000 blocks of West Tampa from January 1, 2021 through December 21, 2022. The area includes December’s deadly shooting.
In 2021, the police were called 243 times. That number dropped to 179 the following year.
“The police are here. I assure you the police are here,” Lieutenant McCormick said. “We need community. We need everyone to start working together, having conversations and working together as partners.”