Ybor merchants gather to form Business Watch Network

Business owners filled out registration forms listing contact information to be shared with each other and the Tampa Police Department. Participants will receive a Business Watch sticker — designed by a local Ybor artist and funded by the YCDC — that will enable police to contact the owners of a particular business if a crime occurs after business hours.

David Scott from the YCDC said he regularly hears one question from the public: Is it safe to go to Ybor City? He added that it was "surprising how prevalent the perception of danger in this community is," though incidents like the recent shootings at Club Empire and Club Manilla do make a lasting impact.

TPD officer Sean Mahabir said, "We have got to start looking out for each other." When a suspicious character enters a business, "calls need to be made, contacts need to be made, and this is how we are going to make it safe." He hears from people in the neighborhood that things need to change. "Well, guess what? This is the opportunity right now for change. We hold that kind of power in this room."

Pete Bossler is the owner of Rudely Elegant, located at 19th Street in Ybor. He thought the idea of a business watch group was "very cool."

Bossler said the neighborhood had already become safer with the demise of Club Empire weeks ago; the owner of the hip-hop establishment closed down his shop after business plummeted 90 percent in the wake of a patron's murder there in early October. Bossler said he still had issues with Club Manilla, which is located further east on 7th Avenue near 26th Street. "It's a combination of things," he said of the recent violence.

There is now a Facebook page for Ybor Watch that you can access here.

  • Ybor merchants meet at the Ritz

For years now, members of the Ybor City business community have chafed at its reputation as a crime-infested neighborhood.

The recent shootings at Club Empire and Club Manilla certainly haven't helped that reputation, but as Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor attested once again today, crime has dropped radically in the region since 2003 (over 70 percent overall).

At the Ritz Ybor nightclub in the heart of the entertainment district, representatives from over 100 businesses gathered to hear Chief Castor, Ybor City Development Corporation leader David Scott and police officer Sean Mahabir, who covers the neighborhood for the TPD, discuss a new Business Watch Network being formed in the Ybor area.

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