Shooting Impacts Ybor Perception

That recent, headline-grabbing shooting in Ybor City – in the parking lot beside La Tropicana Café – was unfortunate and troubling on a couple of levels.

Two Haines City visitors were pistol whipped by (five) armed predator-cowards, but were not seriously injured. Traumatized to be sure, but not hurt badly. They won’t soon forget the frightening experience.

And, chances are, they won’t soon return to Ybor. That – and the attendant publicity — makes Ybor City another victim.

An ironic one in that the incident, in which three of the perpetrators were wounded and one killed by plainclothes officers, actually belies falling crime statistics in the historic entertainment district. More aggressive law enforcement has resulted in lower numbers across the board – rapes, aggravated assaults, robberies, burglaries and vehicle thefts – for the first four months of 2005 compared with the same period in ’04. Murders for the period remained the same – zero.

“The vast majority of the time – even late — things are pretty comfortable,” says Tom Keating, president of the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce. “I think the word is out that people are paying attention.”

Keating was alluding to the beefed up police presence, including plainclothes officers on the streets, uniformed officers on horseback and off-duty cops in clubs. He also salutes the ongoing liaison between police and the business community.

“We do a lot of events here,” Keating explains, “and we need to know what happens and what is happening on a regular basis. The interfacing with police – and I want to single out Cpt. Marco Trigiano – has been outstanding.”

He also underscores the importance of merchants looking out for one another.

“This isn’t a business district,” he points out. “This is a business community. The people are very aware and very good about covering each other’s back.

“A shooting is not some daily activity, to say the least,” says Keating. “But the real trick is getting more traffic – literally more eyes on the street – in the early part of the evening and then de-emphasizing the really late night.”

Someone else had something pertinent to say about the shooting incident. That was Tampa Police Department spokeswoman Laura McElroy, who stressed a TPD bottom line.

According to a Bay Area daily, she said, “A police shooting is something you never want to have to deal with. But this is the best outcome. The officers walked away, the victims walked away, and the suspects are paying a price for their actions.”

In a revolving-door criminal justice system, one which all of the Ybor predator-perps were well acquainted, this qualifies as justice ultimately dispensed.

Bottom line, indeed.

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