by Hannah Farrow
Ybor City is a historical landmark in Tampa. From its rich history as the Cigar Capital of the world between the 1880s and 1930s, to its renowned restaurants like the Columbia, Ybor is teeming with culture. But regardless of its unique attractions, it is now perceived as extremely unsafe. Stabbings, shootings and robberies have all been reported within Ybor’s limits.
Early in the morning of Sept. 6, former USF football player Elkino Watson, 22, was stabbed to death outside of The Orpheum nightclub by Randolph Graham, 23, of Tampa. Watson was at the nightclub celebrating USF’s victory over Florida A&M with his friend Desmond Horne, who was also repeatedly stabbed.
According to The Orpheum’s owner, Jeff DuFrain, the nightclub always tries to hire off-duty Tampa police officers to ensure maximum security, but the holiday weekend made it difficult to have officers work that night.
“It is our goal to have the safest environment possible for our patrons,” DuFrain said. “We will continue to move forward in that direction in light of this unfortunate, senseless act.”
Since the incident, Graham has been put behind bars without bond. He turned himself in on Wednesday night after discovering his status as a wanted man, according to 10 News.
After the tragedy, USF head football coach Willie Taggart decided to ban his athletes from visiting Ybor. Deeming it an unsafe place, he told his players there are other places to hang out at night. The school’s athletic director, Mark Harlan, vetoed Taggart’s decision, not wanting to further Ybor’s bad reputation.
“USF athletics will continue to focus on reinforcing its policy of student-athletes making smart decisions wherever they may be, looking out for one another, and walking away from any situation that appears threatening,” Harlan said in his statement.
As bad a reputation as Ybor has to some, the crime rate in Ybor has actually dropped over 82 percent in the last 10 years, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis. Tampa police also ensured the public that they will be on every corner in Ybor and increase their presence at closing time.
Still, several UT students aren’t taking any chances.
“I make sure I don’t walk alone,” said University of Tampa student Bria Litow. “I make sure I have a male in the group I’m walking with and never wander off the main strip.”
The history of Ybor City and its positive attributes far outweigh the negative thoughts associated with it. The city can’t keep the party-goers away, nor should it. But just remember, if you’re going out, don’t go alone.
As important as safety is, people are quick to overlook the good and focus on the bad.
Let’s not do that. Instead, here are some of the many great features Ybor City has to offer.
Revolve Clothing Exchange offers a lot of unique new, used and refurbished clothes you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
Relevant Church, a nondenominational church, strives to make every attender feel at home while telling the word of God.
The Columbia restaurant attracts travelers around the globe for a special dining experience.
Cigar stores line the main strip in Ybor where you can watch workers hand roll fresh cigars.