BY SAMUEL JOHNSON
SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER
The Tampa Police Department is combining forces with residents and community organizations to combat a recent spike in violent crime.
On April 18, roughly 200 plus residents, community leaders and Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor marched in solidarity to stop the violence in Sulphur Springs, a neighborhood in Tampa.
Those who participated in the six-block trek from Abundant Life Church to Idlewild Sulphur Springs Church marched side by side with local luminaries like Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
The Sulphur Springs march was the first in a series of anti-violence rallies scheduled in Tampa.
Mayor, chief speak
Buckhorn recalled the tough times the Sulphur Springs area experienced during the mid to late 1980s. He sees the paring of residents and police as the makings of a “great team.’’
The idea for the police to reach out to the Sulphur Springs community has been in the works for a while. But the shooting death of 14-year-old Richard Newton last month provided both the spark and the gravitas for this event. The teenager was shot to death at a birthday party in Sulphur Springs on March 21.
Lt. Randy Peters, public information officer with the Tampa Police Department, says the increased crime rate keeps the residents from enjoying the Florida lifestyle. He said the police want “people to feel safe in their community…to be able to come back home and sit on their porch and enjoy themselves like you and I do.”
Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor was straightforward in her assessment of why community engagement is so important. She wants to convey to all citizens in Tampa that the police department exists to serve the citizens. Furthermore, having police partnering up with local communities is the “only way we’re going to keep our communities safe,” she stated.
April Goode is a member of Unified Community Outreach, a grassroots organization that helps residents with various resources like understanding their health insurance, help with paying their bills, and then learning to budget to pay those bills. The organization also takes on a social worker/case management role dealing with family issues.
Goode half jokingly reminded those assembled that “we are the community so we are also the crime.”
This was in reference to the uptick in violent crime and black-on-black crime in Sulphur Springs. In Goode’s assessment, the community needs to recognize that there are other outlets to resolving differences than resorting to violence.
Grabbing attention is often the first step in starting a dialogue about change, according to Corby Norphlet.
He is the president of CowBros, a faith-based organization whose mission is spread on horseback.
Norphlet said showing up at events like this can kick-start the conversation. He understands that the CowBros might not be the deciding difference but they “…can be part of the difference.” The CowBros are a well-known group of African-American ranchers.
The 20 or so CowBros (and a few CowGals) taking part in the march hoped that seeing a 2,000-pound animal meander down the street will have an domino effect from the kids to their parents.
Norphlet hopes that they will change their outlook and say: “Let’s go do something other than kill ourselves, other than fighting, other than doing all this crazy stuff.”
At the Idlewild Sulphur Springs Church, there were refreshments, entertainment and an opportunity to connect with positive resources in the neighborhood.