Spice overdoses impacting Tampa's image

Posted at 3:49 PM, Apr 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-21 17:29:12-04

You've seen the videos of people looking like zombies. and stumbling around high on synthetic marijuana or Spice as it's known on the streets. 


Just weeks ago Tampa police busted a sneaky operation where people could buy Spice just by driving through a Tampa convenience store and using a code word. 


Last week ABC Action News rode along with Tampa firefighters as they responded to more overdose calls than ever before. 


Now we’re looking into even more damage the drug is doing in our city. Local business owners like Ergin Tek say its negatively impacting his business. “It is impacting me very badly and I lose half of my sales,” he said. 


One of the main places local law enforcement says its seeing this problem is the Marion Transit Center. With Tek’s Downtown Cafe just across the street from the transit center he’s worried about what its doing to the City of Tampa’s Image.  “People see this part of town like a lost part of the United States,” Tek said.  


Its a problem also permeating Tampa Heights. “The people around here are completely spiced and drugged out,” said Cheong Choi, Owner Cafe Hey.


Choi also manages The Oceanic restaurant equipment store and supermarket. Its one of the oldest and well known Asian markets in Tampa.  But just outside his doors, Choi says there’s a problem he can’t fix.  “The people who take Spice will deal it and smoke it here”


Choi says there’s not much he can do about but call police. He says within hours, they’re back. Its something his customers worry about. “There are times where they are actually belligerent and have threatened me, my staff or my customers. “ he said. 


Cops are doing their best to stop it, but drug makers are one step ahead changing Spice ingredients once they know what type is outlawed.


HART says they’re well aware of the problem near the bus station which is why they’ve hired private security to keep patrons safe. “We work closely with the Tampa Police Department and also with Allied Barton our security services vendor.  If there is a problem with a particular person, that person may be issued a trespass which means they may be barred from the property” said Spokesperson Sandra Morrison. Morrison said since they’ve hired private security, crime in the area has decreased. 


But security and officers can only do so much, because Spice is difficult to police. In the meantime business owners say they’ll do their best to keep drug users away. 


“i don’t think they have a lot of means of combating it at this point,” said Choi.