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National Politics

Security not too heavy during RNC, chief, sheriff say

Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 11:55 AM

Downtown Tampa and Charlotte had a comparatively different feel during the Republican and Democratic national conventions, but that had more to do with events than security preparations, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said Friday.

News reports described a vibrant atmosphere with plenty of visitors in downtown Charlotte. Downtown Tampa, meanwhile, was dominated by law enforcement officers and few others beyond those with access to convention activities.

"The security plans were the same," Castor said in response to a question at the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa luncheon meeting comparing Tampa and Charlotte. "They had the same number of officers."

The activity in Charlotte was by design, with planners relocating an annual Labor Day outing from an auto race track to downtown.

Light-rail passengers walked about downtown Charlotte while many of Tampa's convention visitors took special buses - 400 compared with about 100 in Charlotte – directly to convention events beyond the fenced, outer security perimeter.

"They had a more vibrant downtown with the light rail," Castor said.

The dozen or so questions from the 30 Tiger Bay attendees focused mostly on the security presence in Tampa.

"There is no forgiveness in being underprepared," Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said about the numbers of officers on the street in Tampa. "It is the times we live in.''

Tampa reported two arrests during the Aug. 27-30 Republican National Convention, compared with about 25 people in Charlotte who were arrested or detained during the three-day Democratic National Convention that ended Thursday.

The threat from Tropical Storm Isaac likely helped limit the numbers of protestors in Tampa to about 2,000, compared with the 15,000 that some had expected, Castor said. (813) 259-7817