Southeast Seminole Heights Lyft driver says he will continue driving at night, despite searches

TAMPA, Fla. - A Southeast Seminole Heights Lyft driver is struggling to avoid police searches as he cruises around the neighborhood, working to make ends meet.

Levi Houston has lived in Southeast Seminole Heights for years. He says he works as a bus driver but also drives part-time for the ride-sharing service Lyft, working mostly overnight shifts to cash in on the people leaving bars and clubs.

Houston says he also primarily drives in his neighborhood throughout the night because that's where he feels comfortable.

Since the fourth shooting death in Southeast Seminole Heights, Houston said he's been stopped and had his car searched by Tampa Police.

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Houston said last night, police pulled him over again after he completed a drive for Lyft, around midnight.

"He just kind of turned to me and said listen, did you feel like you were being followed?" he said an officer asked him.

Houston said he was told he was being tailed.

"He told me that he actually had about roughly 20 officers following me," he told ABC Action News. "He just said it takes a lot of resources to pursue something that is not what they're looking for."

Houston said he understands why repeated searches are necessary and has provided police with all information they asked for, including email addresses, phone numbers, his ID, the number of guns he has and more.  

ABC Action News asked Tampa Police about their procedures for stopping people and searching.

"Chief Dugan has been very clear about how we’re conducting the investigation," said Stephen Hegarty, public information officer for the Tampa Police Department. "If you are out walking at night alone, we consider you to be a suspect or a potential victim, and we will stop you and talk to you."

Hegarty did not address the procedures for police stopping drivers.

Houston says for now, he can't stop driving at night.

"I still have to take care of my children," he told ABC Action News. "I still have to pay you know, electric, gas, car insurance. Our community can't just stay in the house. The businesses can't just close."

In fact, he hopes his regular nighttime drives for Lyft will help spot something or someone who seems out of place or suspicious.

Houston hopes that he and other longtime residents in the neighborhood will be able to use their knowledge of the area to help police make a break in the case.

"At the end of the day when its all said and done, and before all this happened, this is still where I live," he said.

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