Questions resurface on area’s crime solutions
Published: Monday, October 14, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 14, 2013 01:10
In the miles surrounding the outskirts of the well-manicured lawns that wave green and gold flags and host some of the lowest campus crime statistics for aggravated assaults reported among Florida universities, according to annual Security and Fire Safety reports, violent crime is more than 10 times as likely to occur in the university area than anywhere else in Florida — and even more likely than anywhere else in the country.
Feet away from the state-of-the-art clinical diabetes research center which opened in 2011 and is receiving more than $55 million in grant money from the National Institute of Health, black women are almost 7 times more likely to have diabetes than anywhere else in Hillsborough County, according to a University Area Community Development Center (UACDC) Critical Area Status report.
Streets across from the facilities in which cutting-edge research on infant mortality is being conducted, an infant is twice as likely to die during the first year of life in the university area than any other area in Florida and 1.75 times more likely than the rest of Hillsborough County, the next closest comparison for mortality rates being the country of Malaysia, according to the UACDC report.
In the neighborhoods surrounding a campus that creates a $3.7 billion dollar economic impact, the per-capita income is $12,437 and in some households as low as $9,500 per year, according to U.S. Census Data.
As crime from an area long blighted with poverty and the consequences that come with it begins to spill over into surrounding areas, recently witnessed by USF students during the string of home invasions and sexual batteries committed at off-campus residences, questions on finding long-term solutions to the issues that have long plagued the community are once again resurfacing.
Policing the area surrounding the university is split between the jurisdiction of the Tampa Police Department, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and University Police (UP).
UP Public Information Officer Lt. Chris Daniel said the university’s statutory jurisdiction extends only 1,000 feet surrounding the boundaries of campus. UP is well-aware of the area the university is situated in, he said.
“Despite what people may think, this is not an island,” he said. “There are no walls that separate us from the rest of the community.”
Over the past three years, 20 incidents of aggravated assault, four robberies, 222 burglaries and zero homicides have been reported to UP on the Tampa campus and residential areas the university is required to report based on the regulations of the Jeanne Clery Act. Over that same period of time, 601 incidents of aggravated assaults, 333 robberies, 1,472 burglaries and 10 homicides were reported in 3.13 square-mile radius that borders campus in Hillsborough County’s District I, according to HCSO statistics.
HCSO Public Information Officer Larry McKinnon said while the numbers have dwindled in recent years, the district remains one of the most densely populated. Hillsborough County in general, he said, has one of the lowest ratios of law enforcement per capita.
In this area however, the county provides a greater concentration of deputies, he said, and in 2012, 20 cameras were installed by HCSO in District I that are monitored by deputies.
“You have to ignore jurisdictional boundaries,” McKinnon said. “Because criminals do.”
High crime rates, along with the other disparate statistics, are problematic, UACDC CEO Dan Jurman said. But they are symptoms of the greater problem at hand.
“The symptoms tend to get most of the attention,” he said. “It’s easier to ignore the core causes.”
The causes, he said, are rooted in the high rates of poverty that surround the area. More than 35 percent of the area uses food stamps, compared to the less than 10 percent overall in Florida, the per capita income in the area is less than half of the per capita income in that of the state and the mean income is almost a third of the state level’s according to an American Community Survey presented in the UACDC’s Critical Status Report.
People in the area have been let down before by promises, Jurman said, as they’ve been scuttled from redeveloping area to redeveloping area. Joining in acts of violence or drugs can be seen as building more social capital for themselves and can promise a quicker ticket to success.
“We don’t have the highest crime numbers because we have the best criminals,” he said. “It’s because we have the best victims.”