Police say South Howard area is safe despite weekend kidnapping; overall crime is down

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – After the brutal weekend attack and kidnapping of a woman outside a South Tampa hot spot, people are questioning the safety of the neighborhood.

But police and business leaders say the area is safe.

Jeff Gigante of the SOHO Business Alliance, who has seen the area explode in growth in the past two decades, said people shouldn’t worry. “It is a safe neighborhood,” Gigante said. “We’re thrilled with how safe this area is.”

Tampa police say he’s right.  As they search for the attacker and pour over surveillance video, they say overall crime in the neighborhood is down.

“It’s very unusual, especially in that area,” Tampa Police Department Spokesperson Steve Hegarty said. “So I think somebody just saw a crime of opportunity and took advantage of it.”

Several 2016 crimes are still unsolved, however. In May two valets at Bern’s Steak House were robbed at gunpoint. In that same month, a jogger was attacked in the area.

News Channel 8 talked with people who frequent the area. Francine Costello is a University of Tampa student who said she’s worried now. “Right now, I’m not too sure anymore,” she said about the safety of the area.

Another UT student, Taylor Baran, said she wouldn’t expect a crime like this to happen. “Definitely not, no. I don’t know. Normally I just feel like it’s a good environment,” Baran said.

Meanwhile, detectives say they need to find the suspect in case he’s thinking about making a repeat performance.

The owners of several restaurants in the area and Crime Stoppers are offering a $6,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the man responsible for this crime.

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