Arrests up in Seminole Heights as police search for killer

The watchful eye of officers in Seminole Heights has led to more than 100 additional arrests in the neighborhood this year, compared to the same timeframe last year.

According to Tampa police, officers have arrested 137 people in Seminole Heights from October 15 to November 15. In 2016, 35 people were arrested in the neighborhood during the same period. In 2015, there were 96 arrests.

Following the death of Ronald Felton, the fourth murder in Seminole Heights, Police Chief Brian Dugan said, "I've instructed the officers in that neighborhood if someone rolls through a stop sign, we want them stopped. We want to know who they are and why they're in there."

"One of the strategies is we just want to make contact with as many people as we can," explained Steve Hegarty, spokesperson for the Tampa Police Department.

Neighbors say they have noticed a significantly larger police presence over the course of the last month, both patrol cars on the streets and the police helicopter circling the air.

"They're everywhere," said Christina Sweet, "which makes me feel a lot better, because they're on every corner."

According to Hegarty, much of the arrests are for people driving with a suspended license, drug offenses, and in at least one case, a felon with a firearm.

Last week, police attended a meeting with the local NAACP discussing plans to maintain a balance between aggressive enforcement and respecting people's rights.

"We're not making contact with people to arrest them, but I'm sorry, if we ask you who you are and it turns out that there's a warrant for your arrest, we're going to arrest you," said Hegarty.

Residents who spoke to FOX 13 on Monday said they are not bothered by police arresting their neighbors who have warrants.

"Take them in. If they've got a warrant, take them," said Lisa Falkenstein.

"They need to arrest them regardless, so if somebody just so happens to get caught up, they deserved it. They had a warrant in the beginning," said Christina Sweet.

Sweet said she lives near the bus stop where the first shooting victim, Benjamin Mitchell, was killed. She worked at the same warehouse as the third victim, Anthony Naiboa. She said the murders have hit close to home for her, both physically and emotionally.

"[Those] people had a life. [Those] people had a whole future ahead of them," said Sweet.

She said whatever it takes, she hopes the suspect is found quickly, so she no longer has to live in fear while walking to and from the bus stop.

"We're just trying to find somebody who's hurting innocent lives, so don't be made at that," Sweet said in support of police.

Of the 137 people arrested in the last month, 47 were released on their own recognizance, meaning they were released without bail upon agreeing, in writing, to appear in court for their upcoming proceedings.

Meanwhile, the reward for information leading to the killer or killers is now up to $110,000.