Police are on high alert with special safety precautions for trick-or-treating children and their families because of this month’s three still-unsolved homicides in a Tampa, Florida, neighborhood.
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Interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan and Mayor Bob Buckhorn have responded to residents’ heightened fears, saying police will have a significantly increased presence throughout the area on Halloween night and that both of them will join trick-or-treaters in the community.
Since the killings, from Oct. 9 to 19, Dugan has advised residents of the Seminole Heights area not to walk alone, especially after sunset.
A small-business owner in the Seminole Heights area planned to open the parking lot of her store-front coffeehouse, which she promised to keep secure and well lit, to families who want to trick-or-treat in a safe place.
"I hope kids will get out there and be able to have fun,” Julie Harris told ABC Tampa affiliate WFTS-TV. “I don't think we should let this monster ruin life for people.”
But Harris hopes the additional security will help keep spirits high.
"I think people are just nervous,” she said. “I think they'll be at ease with him [Dugan] and the police out there patrolling."
Dugan and Mayor Buckhorn will start the evening at about 5:30 p.m. with a community roll call at Giddens Park, where they will hand out candy and greet community members. They will be joined by several Tampa police officers, including officers on horseback, as well as Florida Highway Patrol troopers.
The three victims -- Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa and Anthony Naiboa -- were killed within 10 days and a one-mile radius around Seminole Heights, officials said.
Authorities have named one unidentified person of interest who was seen on surveillance video walking in the direction of one of the three crime scenes, running away minutes later.
Police said they have received hundreds of tips since releasing the surveillance video but have yet to find a suspect.