When Tampa mayor Pam Iorio was elected, one of her promises was to redevelop East Tampa, and reduce crime in the largely African American neighborhood. This morning saw the groundbreaking of a new police station in the heart of east Tampa, a cornerstone of the mayors plan. WMNF’s Andrew Stelzer brings us this report from the ceremony, which was attended by numerous public officials and community leaders, and some neighborhood kids.

ACT-Kinsey “We believe that this is going to give impression that east Tampa is a safe place to be…

Sam Kinsey, the chairman of the east Tampa community revitalization partnership, said the new police station being built on former Tampa housing authority land at the corner of 22nd street and 30th Avenue south will be a welcome change to the neighborhood.

ACT-Kinsey “…A few months ago across Belmont heights man was shot to death, many of little league teams didn’t want to come here. This will go a long way about changing the mindset..�

Several years ago, Police Chief Hogue said he wanted to create a 3d district in the city, to be east Tampa. But because of a lack of space, the district 3 police have been working out of the downtown police station. Major Bob Gaderra is the district 3 commander; he said the new station will help the police reduce crime in the area..

ACT-Gaderra “We know at times it’s been difficult for residents to access district 3..but now thats soon to be a memory, and you should understand that our home is your home..�

ACT-Gaderra “We are so happy to finally be able to move to east Tampa, to serve this community, get closer to the people you serve, policing you have to be a part and this is a way to be closer to east Tampa..�

The 9.3 million dollar building, which was designed to blend in with the surrounding houses, is being paid for in part by funds from the tax increment-financing district that was established in 2004 to help the blighted east Tampa area. Alphonso Architects was chosen as the designer in the summer of 2005. Carlos Marino is the firms lead designer on the project.

ACT “Were looking’s a low building, with an atrium..its 19,000 square feet..the African Americans on south side, public art in corner there, little celebration for Belmont heights baseball on the instead we made it backdrop..the entrance will be on 22nd side, and two entrances for cruisers..are for east Tampa development and conference rooms for the community..also for local artists and gallery like space..the building will stop here on 31st, and park on north east and west of building�

To get to the public meeting rooms, people will enter the main lobby, but will not have to walk through the portion of the building being used by the police. Tampa Police chief Steve Hogue said they may start an explorer program at nearby Middleton High School, with the goal of recruiting future police officers from the neighborhood, and increasing the number of minority employed by the police department. He noted that district 3 is leading the city in crime reduction, but says there is a long way to go..

v ACT-Hogue “About 250 police and 12 civilians will work out of here….when you move operation you are more connected..more concerns�

6 of the 7 Tampa city council members were present at the groundbreaking, along with a group of youth from the parks and recreation summer program. When Tampa mayor Pam Iorio asked the kids how many had ever considered becoming a police officers, about 20 raised their hands.

ACT-Iorio “How many of you have considered being a police are gonna help dig the dirt today, and I want you over the years to know a couple of can grow up to be mayor and second you are responsible…you will set the tone, its your job to lay that groundwork, and we want you to inherit a community thats safe…grow up and live here and raise your families here..we want east Tampa to be a seamless part of community..we mean every young lets dig some dirt�

ACT “one two three..digging sound..shovels..don’t dig too deep..�

Using more than a dozen golden shovels, city and police officials, dug up dirt to symbolize the beginning of construction.

ACT “What do you think about having police station -good..its safe -we can play sports -is it safe -drugs shooting crazy people. I heard some gunshots by my house.. -police are good -tryin to have a good community -it is a good thing, we can be more safer -breaking into people houses -I think its good because people can feel safe when they go to sleep -people be shooting here, and the police station is right across they wont de anything -when they see police taking over Belmont heights -smoking, smoking busting windows, gangs -you don’t have to call them, just come and tell em -I live on orange grove -people getting killed, someone was trying to get inside someones car.�

Its estimated the building will be open by late spring 2007.

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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