Tampa revamps police program alerting landlords to arrests

Posted at 12:16 PM, Sep 19, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The mayor of Tampa says officials will revamp a program that allowed police officers to notify landlords when their tenants had been arrested, even in cases where charges were later dropped.

The decision to reform Tampa's Crime-Free housing program was announced by Mayor Jane Castor Saturday following an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times that showed police officers were reporting tenants after arrests for misdemeanor crimes and the arrests of juveniles, and that about 90 percent of the 1,100 people flagged by the program were Black tenants.

Under the announced changes, the city will inform landlords only about "certain serious drug and violent felonies." A police captain must sign off on notices sent, and landlords will be notified only about arrests that happen on their properties.

The program was created in 2013 with the goal of stamping out drug and gang crime in apartment complexes. At its peak, about 100 apartment complexes were enrolled in the program.

"No Tampa resident should have to live where they fear to let their kids play outside, and this voluntary program has improved the safety and quality of life for tens of thousands of people," Castor said in a statement.

Not all of the program's critics were satisfied with the announced changes.

Yvette Lewis, president of the Hillsborough County NAACP, said the program could still violate a renter's civil rights because it can result in an eviction based solely on an arrest.

"This program needs to be stopped," she said. "You're treating housing as though it's a privilege."