Tampa was told it was under federal investigation at the end of 2021. The City Council just found out

Tampa police
The investigation was launched to see if Tampa's Crime-Free Housing Program violated the Fair Housing Act.

Members of Tampa’s City Council Thursday expressed frustration with ongoing communications breakdowns between council members and Mayor Jane Castor‘s administration.

“All of us found out on Friday through a press conference the Mayor had that the city has been under the second Justice Department investigation for civil rights in seven years,” Council Member Bill Carlson said. “And that started in December.”

Castor’s Chief of Staff John Bennett said the city “made everybody else aware” as soon as they were notified. But Carlson said he and other members of the City Council only found out in a news release sent out after the press conference.

“I find that really offensive as an elected official,” Carlson told Bennett.

According to documents released by the City of Tampa, The U.S. Department of Justice notified the city it was under federal investigation via a Dec. 21 letter. The city received the letter the following day.

The investigation was launched to see if Tampa’s Crime-Free Housing Program violated the Fair Housing Act by denying access to or creating separate terms to certain applicants or tenants. Castor implemented the Crime-Free Multi Housing program in 2013 when she was chief of police. It was supposed to help keep violent crime, drugs and gang activity out of rental properties.

But a Tampa Bay Times investigation found police officers notified landlords of minor misdemeanor crimes, like shoplifting or driving with a suspended license, and provided lease addendums that allowed tenants to be evicted. That led to hundreds of evictions. In many cases offenders were never convicted of the crimes; were juvenile residents of a home; or were guests of a home. Regardless of conviction or being a lessee, landlords were empowered to evict any tenant associated with an arrest.

And the arrests disproportionately impacted the Black community. The Times investigation found “90% of the 1,100 people flagged by the program were Black, police records show. That’s despite Black residents making up only 54% of all arrests in Tampa over the past eight years.”

In one instance, a 16-year-old boy was arrested for stealing change out of cars and later released from juvenile detention with no charges. But his family’s landlord was notified and they lost their Robles Park Village home.

The city said it ended the program in December. It was rebranded as Safety Awareness for Everyone, or SAFE, without the reporting of crimes to landlords.

“The bottom line is that the City of Tampa believes firmly that every resident, regardless of income level or address, deserves to feel safe, and partnerships like SAFE help prevent crime,” Castor said last week. “No major city in Florida has a lower crime rate than Tampa, and we will never stop standing up for crime victims, including residents victimized by criminal activity in their neighborhoods.” 

The DOJ has not released the results of its investigation.

Seven years ago, another Times investigation led to a DOJ investigation that found Tampa’s so-called “biking while Black” inititative led to Black bicyclists being stopped and ticketed at rates that far exceeded white counterparts with no quantifiable impact on crime in the city.

Daniel Figueroa IV

Bronx, NY —> St. Pete, Fla. Just your friendly, neighborhood journo junkie with a penchant for motorcycles and Star Wars. Daniel has spent the last decade covering Tampa Bay and Florida for the Ledger of Lakeland, Tampa Bay Times, and WMNF. You can reach Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected]


10 comments

  • Earl

    May 8, 2022 at 9:28 am

    This is the second time that Jane Castor has created a policy that has been shown to have a disparate impact on the Black Community. Is it time that we look at her actions through a different lens?

    • Timothy Long

      May 9, 2022 at 1:47 pm

      I read the earlier story on this and was quite shocked to see it was going on. Unless I’m wrong this was out through prior to Jane

    • James W Conley

      May 9, 2022 at 1:54 pm

      Or people could quit committing crimes?

  • Michael Hayes

    May 8, 2022 at 9:42 am

    This is what we (Afican-Americans) call systemic racism. This is why Jim Crow Biden won’t or any other preisdent give us a hate crime bill. I never like Castor and to find out she’s part of the white supremist system does’nt surprise me. So we made up %54 of arrests in 8 years but %90 of us arrested? Why didn’t she target all the meth homes/labs in the white community to help rid their neighborhood of crime? Crooks investigating crooks! Great article, thank you. Maybe if this wasn’t such a white supremist run country, it would be a fair playing field for all. Unfortunately it is not, and this part of what African-Americans have to deal with daily.

    Thank you!

    • James W Conley

      May 9, 2022 at 1:56 pm

      Or just quit committing crimes? That might help. Nothing systemic about that, chief.

  • SANCHEZ

    May 8, 2022 at 11:08 am

    Ever since I started identifying as black, my options have skyrocketed. Much easier than my old country…

  • Jeremiah Hudson

    May 8, 2022 at 11:43 am

    Hello Mr. Daniel ,
    My name is Jeremiah Hudson and my Constitutional rights were extremely violated by an Agency Sheriff’s Department for no reason whatsoever while I was at work and took my daughter’s for no reason!! Now since LAW is contract and I wasn’t contracted with this agency I now have notices of liens on all parties involved including TPD, HCSO, and Hillsborough County School Board against ADDISON DAVIS for a large amount for Extreme Constitutional violations. Every man must be met with DUE PROCESS OF LAW and if that due process is not afforded then Just compensation must take place. Not to mention the violations of there own statues, rules, and regulations. I would love to speak to you in person when u have the time or over the phone. I feel I can get and keep your attention. You can e mail me your #and I will contact you pronto. Please and thank you

  • Bernard Bierdemann

    May 8, 2022 at 12:05 pm

    I am white. I would like to opologise to all the people out there that aren’t white. I don’t understand how a human being can mistreat another living soul this way. God created different people as a test. So let’s pass the test and not mistreat others. I love you all.
    Mayor get your act together.

  • Jeff

    May 8, 2022 at 7:13 pm

    This is a very simple solution to solve. Don’t committ crimes, raise your kids not to be thugs, and as a landlord my self I back ground check all the tenants before I let them move in and if I find problems in the screening I deny the application.

  • Ted

    May 12, 2022 at 5:09 pm

    No one was ever stopped for “biking while black.” This is a canard.
    The program there was one which involved stopping bicyclists because they were in violation of state law requiring lights both fore and aft on the bicycle when used at night. It happened that most of the people stopped under that program were black, and that is because most of the program activity occurred in east Tampa, which is predominantly black, and which is also where the majority of crime in the city takes place. Hence, the direction of law enforcement resources to it. People were not stopped for their race. They were stopped for being in violation of state law. Once stopped, questioning occurred, I recall intended to determine whether there was a warrant outstanding or some other reason to detain the individual. (That happens every time you get stopped while driving, whatever your color.) As an East Tampa resident, and a devoted bicyclist, I am distressed that most of my black neighbors who ride bicycles still do not have them properly equipped with required safety equipment like lights. Most also do not bother to have helmets on, even the kids under 16, who are required by law to do so. There is also distressing, wide-spread ignorance or defiance of the sensible law that bicycles must ride with traffic, like all other vehicles. That is a state law, not a Tampa one. As is always the case, if you want to minimize your interactions with law enforcement, do not give them any reason to interact with you. The laws governing bicycling are not enacted to oppress anyone. They are there to maximize safety for everybody. Follow them and live.

Comments are closed.


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