People in Tampa Heights are working to combat crime in a neighborhood park with an unexpected initiative: a dog park.
Neighbors have seen prostitution, drug use and vandalism happening in and around the Plymouth Playground. It's just steps away from where kids play.
"There used to be a ton of gang violence over here," said Derrick Bland, who has lived here all his life.
Bland is now part of the effort pushing to put a dog park in an space that now lies empty at the Plymouth Street Playground.
"A lot of homeowners, they want a safe place to bring their animals," he said.
Justin Ricke of the Tampa Heights Civic Association is leading the effort. He's already collected more than 200 signatures from around Tampa supporting the dog park project.
"We have families here," he said. "We have kids."
He has personally witnessed crime and picked up needles where kids play. His hope is that by filling the playground with people from the community at a dog park, it will deter criminals from coming in.
Ricke also said it will keep the community talking to each other.
"I may not know that you know, a neighborhood down the street had their car broken into," he said. "But I come to the dog park, I talk to my neighbor, he says 'hey, did you know so and so had his car broken into?' Well, now I do."
Ricke plans to take the petition to Tampa City leaders soon and ask them to greenlight the project. The Tampa Heights Civic Association plans to ask the city to pay for half of the $70,000 price tag. They will pay the other half through their own funds and private donations.
Bland hopes the city chooses to look at the addition of a dog park as an investment in safety.
"People love to have a quiet neighborhood to live in," he said.