Tampa saw highest murder rate in 2017 in over a decade

By Laurie Davison, Reporter
Last Updated: Saturday, January 13, 2018, 7:49 AM EST

The City of Tampa closed out 2017 with its highest number of murders in more than a decade--a milestone Tampa police and the community wanted to avoid. 

  • Tampa saw highest murder rate in 2017 in over a decade
  • 39 people were killed in 2017; police working to bring number down
  • Police say most murders were drug-related

Thirty-nine people were killed last year and efforts are underway to bring that number back down. 

Police say a combination of things have caused the number to increase, including more drug-related murders. But whatever is causing the spike, residents want to see the number come down. 

Joyce Mitchell has lived in Seminole Heights for about 40 years. She usually plays with her family's dogs at the park, but lately she's been afraid. 

"You see a lot of killing around this area," she said. 

Seminole Heights saw the worst of it in 2017, with four people being randomly gunned down by an alleged serial killer. But murders occurred in other neighborhoods as well, and for many different reasons. 

"I think it has to really do with what's goingon in the economy, with society. It doesn't really matter which neighborhood you live in anymore," Michelle Zakrzewski, a resident, said. 

According to the data, a lot of it is drug-related, so Tampa police have created two new street-level narcotics squads to work with the Violent Crimes Bureau. They've also come up with a system to identify violent repeat offenders to help arrest and prosecute them. 

Neighborhood policing is also a priority. In Seminole Heights, officers were very visable during troubled times. 

"I still see their presence in the day. I'm retired so I see their presence in the neighborhood. I had one stop and feed the dog across the street the other day. You know they're there, but they can't be everywhere at once," Mitchell said. 

And even though there is more police presence, residents are doing their part too. 

"We close our gate at night, we have metal doors and we have an alarm system and neighbors, we all watch out for each other," Zakrzewski said. 

Both women say police can only do so much to cut down on the number of murders, the rest is up to the community itself.