Safe and Dangerous Places in Tampa
Naturally, there will be a certain amount of criminal activity, as in any major metropolitan area or generally safe city in America. Tampa has certain neighborhoods that can present tourists with danger. However, according to the Morgan Quitno report on the safest cities in the US, Tampa makes the cut.
According to TampaBay.com, one of Tampa' major news sources, the statistics collected from the Tampa Police Department and other government agencies show that in 2009, violent crime dropped more than 12% and other crimes dropped more than 15%. This was the seventh year in a row the city saw a decrease in crime.
We'll first take a look at the safe places in Tampa, and then look at the statistics about the most dangerous spots that visitors should consider areas to avoid in Tampa. We've also got tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of crime.
Safe Areas in Tampa
Citrus Park is a comparatively new neighborhood that has undergone marked developed in the past 10-15 years. It is located to the northwest of Tampa. It has absorbed and revitalized smaller neighborhoods with homes that date back about 20-25 years. Citrus Park boasts the upscale Westfield Citrus Park Mall (8021 Citrus Park Town Center, (813) 926-4644), and other exclusive shops and new homes are under development. You may not have many reasons to visit Citrus Park, but it is one of the safe places in Tampa that you can count on.
Citrus Park Town Center Hours: Mon-Sat 10AM-9PM, Sun noon-6PM
Neighboring Citrus Park on its south boundary, Westchase is an example of the "return to community living" style, with a new, but old-fashioned shopping community at its center. There are apartments on the second floors of stores and restaurants, upscale shops and two major malls with West Park Village Town Center and West Chase Square. In addition to shopping, visitors may venture here to visit the Tampa Bay Downs Racetrack (11225 Racetrack Road, (813) 855-4401) and enjoy the many golf clubs.
Occasionally in both Citrus Park and Westchase, there will be small rashes of home theft because criminals may know that these homes are recently redecorated or the owners have acquired pricey new items. But street crime is at a minimum. Here's a safety tip: crush all boxes from new furniture, appliances and accessories. Bag them; do not display empty boxes at the curb.
West Shore is mostly a shopping and business area, close to Tampa International Airport with lots of hotels, restaurants and nightlife. There are two malls, Westshore Plaza Mall (250 Westshore Plaza, (813) 286-0790) and the slightly more upscale International Plaza (2223 N. West Shore Boulevard, (813) 342-3790) and both have valet parking available for those who are hesitant to stroll large parking lots at night. Besides Tampa's downtown area, this is the largest high-rise business district in Tampa.
Westshore Plaza Hours: Mon-Sat 10AM-9PM, Sun noon-6PM
International Plaza Hours: Mon-Sat 10AM-9PM, Sun 11AM-6PM
Although reports of crime are minimal, it's best to be aware of your surroundings at night; especially for tourists walking back to a hotel from one of the malls or restaurants.
Another recently developed Tampa neighborhood, located to the far north of Tampa proper, New Tampa is best known for its horrific traffic jams due to poor road planning -- not crime. The planned communities here are mostly gated or guarded. While there are many attractive features that offer recreation to home-owners, the average tourist may not have any reason to explore these safe places in Tampa.
Channelside borders downtown Tampa to the northeast. It's a newly revitalized area that was once a very high crime area, as are most areas on the outskirts of downtown. Channelside includes new condos and the updated and very popular Florida Aquarium (701 Channelside Drive (813) 273-4000). Channelside Bay Plaza (615 Channelside Drive, (813) 223-4250) is an upscale development that combines a variety of dining, retail and entertainment venues along the waterfront. It's a short drive from the St. Pete Times Forum (401 Channelside Drive, (813) 301-6500).
Florida Aquarium Hours: Daily 9:30AM-5PM, Admission: $19.95 for adults, $16.95 for seniors 60+, $14.95 for children under 12, free for children 2 and under
During Channelside's store and valet parking hours and arena events, this area is heavily policed. And as with any safe city in America, Tampa visitors should leave Channelside when the businesses close.
Areas to Avoid in Tampa
College Hill is located in the innermost part of Tampa, between Martin Luther King and East Lake, Nebraska Boulevard and 26th Street. It is definitely one of the areas to avoid in Tampa since crime rates here are twice as high as the national average. The neighborhood is well-known for gang activity, drive-by shootings, car-jacking, burglary, muggings and assault with deadly weapons according to the Tampa Police Department crime stats. For those who do not live in this area or minister to the people living there, it is advisable to simply avoid it.
Tampa Heights, especially around Tampa St. and Amelia (leading into downtown), was rated in 2009 as one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in both the city and the nation, according to the FBI-reported violent crime rate ratio. WalletPop names it as the 17th most dangerous neighborhood in the nation. Your chance of being a victim of crime is 1 in 9. Murder, robbery, rape, assault and manslaughter are why we've named this as one of the scary places in Tampa.
However, some areas of Tampa Heights have, for the last few years, been a pet project of Tampa's redevelopment plan. Homes have been refurbished and businesses revitalized. Crime may be starting to go down according to early reports. But since it is too soon to be sure, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Due to its transient nature, "Suitcase City" is the name often used to describe the Tampa area near the University of South Florida (4202 E. Fowler Avenue, (813) 974-2011). It's also the home of Busch Gardens (10165 N. McKinley Drive, (888) 800-5447). Generally considered to be the area between Fowler and Busch Boulevards to the north and south, 22nd Street and 30th to the east and west, this part of North Tampa poses dangers to residents and visitors. It is just a few blocks from a safer area that begins northeast of the campus. As you might guess, home break-ins and car theft are major issues.
Busch Gardens Hours: Vary, Admission: Varies
The nearby University Square Mall (2200 E. Fowler Avenue, (813) 971-3465) has been the site of car thefts especially around Christmas time. Tip: Watch your surroundings as you return to your car with packages. You should always make it a point to store all your packages and valuables in the trunk, not within view of the windows.
University Square Mall Hours: Mon-Thu 10:30AM-8:30PM, Fri 10:30AM-9PM, Sat 10AM-9PM, Sun noon-6PM)
Busch Gardens is safe and heavily policed, however the parking lot is vast. Tip: Out-of-state license plates scream "vulnerable tourist" to an opportunistic thief. Try to rent a car with local plates and no identifying rental stickers.
A historic district between North Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue, the Jackson Heights neighborhood is just outside downtown Tampa's high-rise business and restaurant area. Because historic districts in a city are usually in the oldest developed parts, they're commonly found near impoverished areas. The most frequent crimes are robbery, felony assault and grand larceny.
Ybor City, Tampa's colorful historic Cigar Manufacturing District, lies east of downtown and heading out of the city. It's known for many good things, including Cuban cuisine and lifestyle, early 20th-century history, a historic district and hip nightclubs. Unfortunately, it's also a hotspot for daytime and nighttime crime.
Car theft is most common, even during daylight hours, and especially when attractions and businesses are closed. Weekday lunchtime is busy with downtown business people dining out, so it's a great time to visit and sample Cuban cuisine. After 3PM, if the streets look deserted or you sense unseen dangers in this part of Tampa, you should leave. On Friday and Saturday nights, the neighborhood is hopping and patrols are present. Crimes like drunken or disorderly conduct, purse or car theft and unprovoked assault are what the police watch for.
Tips: Carpool in groups and park in well-lit, busy areas, then walk around in groups. Out-of-state license plates are a red flag and could make you a crime victim.
From the inviting beaches to the thrills of Busch Gardens, Tampa is a safe city. Being aware of the dangers and scary places will keep Tampa visitors safe. We want you to visit us again and again.
Can't Get Enough? Discover More of Tampa
- Overview: Tampa Travel Guide