EAST TAMPA RESIDENTS REACT TO DRUG CLEANUP PLAN - Kristen Friend-Weaver

05/15/03

This Monday Tampa mayor Pam Iorio announced the official beginning of her new plan, Operation Commitment. Operation Commitment is an enforcement operation targeting east Tampa neighborhoods with the aim of cleaning up drug activity and ultimately reviving sagging businesses in the area. WMNF’s Kristen Friend-Weaver has been speaking to business people in the east Tampa area about the mayor’s plan, and she files this report…

Law enforcement officials are calling the current sweep of east Tampa the “first offensive,� and have already made over 150 arrests for various drug and prostitution offenses. This concentrated effort on the part of the Tampa Police Department will last until May 24, although Mayor Iorio claims that the overall cleanup effort will be sustained for as long as is necessary to remove all drug activity from the area. In addition to focusing on drug related crimes, the operation calls for code enforcement inspectors to issue citations to property owners with excessive debris on their property. And crime prevention officers have already preformed 33 free security inspections for homeowners.

Operation Commitment has only been underway for three days, but already local business owners say that they can see some improvements. Eddie Taylor, the owner of Taylor’s Unique Imports in Seminole Heights says that already there are fewer drug dealers hanging around his shop…

Harold Watson, the owner of Galaxy Lounge on 22nd street, agrees that more businesses would come into the area if people were not afraid to stay open after dark. In addition to the focus on crime, Watson wishes that the plan included some sort of aid for existing businesses to make needed repairs and improvements to their establishments. Even without such aid, however, he says that Mayor Iorio is off to the right start by targeting drug activity…

Reginald, an assistant manager at an auto detailing shop, says that Mayor Iorio’s plan is good for the community as a whole, particularly the children…

Other business owners are taking more of a wait and see approach, but are still hopeful that Iorio’s plan will be the best thing for the area. Ism Morris manages a thrift shop in east Tampa and says that cleaning up the area will take a concentrated effort on the part of the whole community…

Although on the whole business owners in east Tampa are seeing improvements, all agree that this initial effort must become a sustained effort if the improvements are to last, because drug dealers must see that law enforcement officials are serious about keeping the area clean. For WMNF news, I’m Kristen Friend-Weaver.

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