City officials plan to shine more light on neighborhood streets, chasing away street-corner drug dealers and other miscreants and brightening the way for residents, students, bicyclists and motorists at night.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Tuesday announced a five-year, $2.2 million program — "Bright Lights, Safe Nights" — that entails installing about 8,400 streetlights in neighborhoods throughout the city. It will boost the city's lighting network about 30 percent at a rate of about 1,600 new streetlights each year.
"A well-lit city is a safe city," Buckhorn said Tuesday at a news conference in front of the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church at Ellicott and 30th streets. "Our kids are going to be safe. Criminals are going to be illuminated. When we turn the lights on, they're going to run and the police will be following."
Buckhorn and Tampa Electric Co. President Gordon Gillette unveiled a "coming soon" sign in front of the church. City officials have partially completed a survey to determine where the lights will be installed, and they anticipate one of the first lights installed in January will be outside the church.
TECO will oversee the project. The city will pay for maintenance and electricity. The city now pays about $5 million each year for maintenance and power for about 30,000 streetlights.
Some neighborhoods targeted for new streetlights are Ybor City, Ybor Heights, College Hill, West Riverfront, Courier City, East Tampa, Carver City, Plaza Terrace and Temple Crest.
A recent study by the Federal Highway Administration showed early-morning and nighttime crashes decrease about 35 percent with more street lighting. Crime can be reduced by up to 45 percent, according to the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge.
Shining lights into dark corners helps police and neighborhood residents who watch for suspicious activity, said Assistant Police Chief John Newman.
"This is a big deal for us," he said. "Folks don't like to bring attention to themselves if they are up to no good."
Priority will be given to neighborhoods with high rates of crime and roadways with high crash rates and fatalities.
Last year, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater was directly behind Orlando as the most dangerous area for pedestrians in the United States, according to a survey by Transportation of America, a nonprofit safety advocacy organization.
Almost one year ago, 15-year-old Shenika Davis was struck and killed by a truck as she crossed Hillsborough Avenue in the dark on her way to Middleton High School.
And last week Andra Glover, 16, was injured when she was hit by two cars as she crossed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at about 7 a.m. on her way to Hillsborough High School.
The city's special tax districts also will get new streetlights as part of overall efforts to encourage business growth. The districts use a portion of local property taxes collected within them to pay for community projects.
The city's streetlight program might help ease recent budgetary crunches for the districts.
"The budgetary need that we had (for streetlights) is eliminated," said the Rev. Essie Sims Jr., chairman of the East Tampa Community Revitalization Partnership. "We can direct those dollars elsewhere."
Planning for the streetlight program began about four months ago, but Buckhorn said a comprehensive program has been a goal since his election last year.
City Councilman Frank Reddick said neighborhood surveys show the top request among East Tampa residents has been for more streetlights.
"You just don't know how much this means to the neighborhood," he said. "It means you can stand outside on a cool night and not be frightened."
To request a repair on an existing streetlight or installation of a new one, visit www.tampgov.net/streetlight or call (813) 274-5800.