Tampa Bay may not lead the nation in the frequency of crimes committed, but as anyone who's watched one of the myriad COPS episodes filmed here knows, we have some colorful characters running afoul of the law in this tropical paradise. For most of the past year, we at the Planet have combed through hundreds of Tampa and St. Petersburg police reports in an effort to find the most obscure, outrageous and amusing people and activities to cross the path of the cops. What we've found is sure to make you laugh ... and then ponder the state of the education system in Florida. What follows is the cream of the thieving, beating, fighting, drinking, drugging and just plain crazy crop of Bay area crime:
1. A TOUCHY SUBJECT: A brief rundown of the techniques used by employees of a St. Petersburg halfway house to move a disgruntled resident from one seat to another in the cafeteria. First, the staff attempted a "touch escort." This is where the "house parents" "place their hands on the juvenile ... usually on the bicep area and attempt to physically move the juvenile from one place to another." Second, the staff attempted a P.A.R. move. P.A.R. stands for "Protective Action Response," and basically means "taking the juvenile to the ground with force if necessary." Finally, after both of these techniques had failed, and with linguistic civility now out the window, the staff responded with the technique of last resort: the highly technical "bear hold." Success! (Published 6/8/05)
2. CARS TO AVOID: The vehicle spotted traveling eastbound on 54th Avenue N. near Fourth Street N. in St. Petersburg driven by a skinhead waving a knife out the window. The police report failed to note if the man was yelling anything, but use your imagination. (5/15/05)
3. THE DIRECT APPROACH: An officer observed a white Jeep stopped in the intersection of 47th Street and Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa. The middle-aged woman driver said she was at the Hard Rock Casino, where her purse was stolen. Per the report, she parked the car in the intersection, "because she could not drive without a license." Smelling a D.U.I., the officer asked for her date of birth, to which she responded "12/60." The cop asked again, got the same answer, and then informed the woman "that usually there is a day, month and year in a birth date." The officer then tried for the woman's last name, which "also took her approximately 4 attempts" to nail down. Asked if she had been drinking, the woman responded, "Of course." Perhaps sensing that things were not about to go her way, the woman decided she just wanted to head home. The cop informed her that if she was found not to be under the influence, she could leave, to which she replied: "Of course I'm under the influence. I'm drunk!" (7/6/05)
4. STUNNING: An officer was called to a parking lot at N. 15th Street and E. Eighth Avenue in Tampa in response to a report of a fight. In an effort to gain control of the situation, the officer moved between the two brawlers and took out his stun gun, hoping the show of force might calm everyone down. One of the men complied, but the other man charged the officer, who deployed the stun gun hitting the charging man in the chest. The officer then yelled that both men were under arrest and instructed them to lie on the ground. The non-stunned man did as instructed, but the stunned man was defiant, pulling at the probes sticking out if his chest. The officer gave him another zap, ordering him not to pull out the probes. The man refused and the cop zapped him for a third time. It took the arrival of two additional officers to get the man into custody. Afterwards, the defendant "had no complaint of injury or ill effect from the Taser." His exact quote, "That thing ain't shit!!! It didn't hurt!!" (11/9/05)
5. WE ACCEPT CASH: A juvenile tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store in Tampa. The clerk recognized the bill as a fake and called the kid on it, sending him fleeing in an "unknown direction." What tipped the clerk off? The officer who inspected the counterfeit bill stated he "immediately" recognized it as a fake, primarily "due to the paper consistency/texture, lack of watermark, lack of security strip, improper ink colors and smudges." The report is unclear whether or not the bill was even green. (11/2/05)
6. TIGHT SQUEEZE: Speaking of gardening, a Tampa couple reported that their weed eater and lawn mower, valued at approximately $700, were stolen from under their carport. The suspect was seen loading the items into a "green Kia Sephia" before fleeing the scene. A mower and a weed eater in a Kia? I call no way. (8/10/05)
7. SMALL TIME CROOKS: From the "I can't believe they tried to steal that" file: Two men entered a Bealls outlet store in Tampa and started shopping. The store's security officer sensed something was amiss immediately, and began following the men on the store's surveillance camera. The officer observed one man "take a white tank top from one of the clothing racks and put it down the front of his pants." Total value of the tank top: "$2.98." The men then went to the register where the guy without a wife-beater stuffed down his crotch purchased some underwear. Once the men exiting the store the security officer gave pursuit. Best line from the police report: "[The security officer] did not try to physically stop the subjects because there was two of them. He wrote down the license plate number of the car ... and described it as a Cadillac, older model, gray in color. He then called police. He believed the tank top was a Haynes."(7/13/05)
8. HEAVY THINGS: St. Pete police have received complaints about a rash of theft from construction sites in the new "Ahali Place" development on 59th Avenue S. Most recently, "50 sheets of 4X8 plywood" valued at $1,500, and "150 2X4's" valued at $600 have disappeared. The victim advised that this was only the latest theft. Per the report,"1500 cinder blocks were taken a week ago and prior to that a large quantity of sod was taken from the development's entrance area." The victim went on to say that "the amount of material taken would have required a large truck or trailer to carry away." Guess that rules out the neighborhood kids. (9/28/05)
9. SOLID LOGIC: After responding to a domestic violence call, cops began to question the injured woman's story, as it conflicted with the statements of her boyfriend and another friend who was there. When the cops directly questioned inconsistencies in her story, "she said no one can prove that is not what happened so she is not worried about it." That should clear up any questions of credibility. (5/4/05)
10. SAFE & SECURE: Police recovered a stolen 2001 Dodge Caravan abandoned in a field in Tampa. An inspection of the vehicle revealed that the "ignition had been punched," and there were no attainable prints. Shame about the lack of evidence, especially since I'm sure the cops were eager to catch this particular thief. The caravan was stolen from the parking lot of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. (7/6/05)
Honorable Mention: THE STING (10/26/05) followed the exploits of a female undercover cop working vice in the Seminole Heights area of Tampa as she met such local luminaries as the dude who rubbed his penis though his pants while negotiating for sex and those two guys who would not take no for an answer. A blog called "Seminole Heights" took The Sting and attempted to put faces to the names. Check it out at: http://seminoleheights.blogspot.com/2005/10/prostitution.html.
From the files of the T.P.D. and the S.P.P.D.