Tampa, Florida - Tampa Bay is enjoying the lowest crime rate in decades. Crime is at a 41-year low. Some credit the involvement of the public from various communities. Others say it's good old fashioned police work.
For Bay area businesses, it's a blessing, and a big one.
The legendary Columbia restaurant is a historic landmark in Tampa Bay. Located in Ybor City, the scenic and stunning building, laden with colorful tiles and plentiful memories, has been in business since 1905. People flock to the award-winning restaurant from all over the world.
And, right now, business is booming.
The owner says it's all thanks to a low crime rate in Tampa Bay.
"I couldn't believe it when I looked at the numbers. When you have a safe environment, people feel comfortable," said Richard Gonzmart.
People are so comfortable that business at the Columbia is up 60 percent, the best it's been in a decade.
But, it wasn't always that way, Gonzmart admits. A crime wave a few years ago had him worried.
"Back in 2002, it was routine to have one, two, three cars stolen. It was a joy ride," he told 10 News.
A true fact, and certainly shocking to hear: two and three cars stolen each weekend. Well now, Gonzmart says, things are different. There's no problem in the six parking lots available to customers. People feel safe, Gonzmart says. They are happy, and they are showing up en masse.
The restaurant is just one of many Bay area businesses feeling safe and secure with violent crime down more than five percent.
With a broad smile, Gonzmart told us, "Under Chief Castor, they've done a great job of monitoring the people. And the police check on them and we haven't a problem in years."
Governor Rick Scott shared the good news Thursday about the crime stats from the first part of 2012, along with Bay area law enforcement leaders. The announcement was made at the FDLE crime lab in Tampa that in each county, crime has gone down significantly.
Governor Scott told reporters, "Criminals know in our state that we're going to hold them accountable, put them in prison if they do the wrong thing."
One Bay area sheriff, Polk County's Grady Judd, says the secret to success is the community, people coming forward and talking to law enforcement about what's happening on their streets. Plus, with the popularity of Crime Stoppers and the promise of anonymity, more people feel comfortable in sharing information.
"I tell everyone we're like a good hound dog. Just throw us on the trail -- the hot end of the trail or the low end of the trail -- and we'll figure it out," said Judd.
Polk and Pasco Counties enjoyed a similar drop in crime, more than 6.6 percent.
New Port Richey saw one of the biggest drops in crime at 16.6 percent, while Manatee County saw a drop of 15.5 percent.