Code enforcement secures abandoned homes following Seminole Heights murders

City of Tampa boards up 11+ properties in area

TAMPA, Fla. - Abandoned homes, leaving dark spots and easy hiding places for a wanted killer to escape police, are creating a new worry in Seminole Heights.

Esme Russell is now full of anxiety in the Southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood she's felt safe living in all her life following three recent murders that police believe are connected.

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"I'm thinking in my head, every time I get in and out of my car, is he hiding in the bushes?" Russell said.

Others are fearful for their loved ones to go outside after dark.

"It's scary because I can't let my dad come to the front yard," said David Torres, a Southeast Seminole Heights resident. "Or my mom."

Now, the City of Tampa is taking an aggressive stance to secure these properties to eliminate any places where someone could hide.

Code Enforcement went out in full force Tuesday morning, working to secure one property at the corner of 17th and Shadowlawn Avenue.

"It's abandoned," said Sal Ruggiero with the Tampa Neighborhood Enhancement Division. "We have evidence of bullet holes in the back of the house. It's overgrown so that people can hide in there."

Crews worked to secure all of the windows with plywood boards as well as trimming any trees or bushes that could provide shelter for a suspect. They also did this with ten other homes in the neighborhood, Ruggiero said.

"We're going to clean it up and board it up so that nobody can hang out there," he said.

They also removed junk like old couches and furniture from the side of the road to provide the street with more visibility.

Now, code enforcement is asking you to report any abandoned properties in the neighborhood either to police or to their code enforcement hotline.

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