Straz accuses mayoral opponent Jane Castor of manipulating crime stats

Tampa mayoral candidate David Straz continued to attack opponent Jane Castor Tuesday, accusing her of manipulating crime statistics to make it appear as if crime reduced at a higher rate than it actually did while she was Tampa police chief.

A new political ad released by the Straz campaign includes former Tampa police officer Gary Pruitt, who made the bulk of the accusations.

"She manipulated the numbers to make herself look better when really what happened was they just merged the reports," Pruitt said.

Castor has taken credit for a 70% decrease in crime between 2002 and 2015, during which she was personally tasked with reducing crime throughout the city, first as major then as chief.

According to Pruitt, the department began counting victms of certain crimes differently during that time. He said, at first, a report was created for each victim of a crime. Beginning in 2006, however, one report would be created for all of the victims of a crime, if the department determined it made sense for that particular case.

Pruitt believes that created the false appearance of a steep decline in crime.

"It's not really a reduction in crime, it's the way that we report it now. Do we still have the same amount of victims? Absolutely we have the same amount of victims. We just stick them in one report," he said.

"They are getting a false sense of security from somebody who doesn't tell the truth," added Straz. "How can she spin that and tell the people of this city that everything is fine, don't worry about it, crime is down? That's a lot of crap!"

Castor, however, said it's Straz who isn't being honest. She said the change in crime-rate calculation was made in 2006, before she was chief. But she added the change did not create a noticeably different reduction in crime; the decrease remained steady in comparison to the previous year.

In a statement, Castor's campaign manager said:

“There apparently are no depths that David Straz won't sink to in his relentlessly negative and bizarre campaign, and now he is attacking the honesty of Tampa's entire police department. All Tampa residents should be proud of the dramatic reduction in crime Tampa saw between 2002 and 2015 – a drop which Jane oversaw, from her lead in implementing an innovative crime reduction strategy, to the end of her tenure as police chief. Tampa’s crime numbers have been audited by the FBI, FDLE, and the Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, and David Straz is welcome to conduct his audit too. The bottom line is Tampa residents worked very hard with Tampa Police officers to make our city safer and lies by Straz won’t change that.”