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Anticrime 'CEO' is all business

A fairly new business crime watch has a new leader to keep it in line and motivated.

By JOHN BALZ, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 3, 2002


NEW TAMPA -- The idea of a female cop raised eyebrows when Julia Junquera got her first beat.

In 1976, Junquera showed up at the Police Department in Hanahan, S.C., asking for an application to become an officer.

"The guy looked at me and said, "We don't hire females,' " Junquera said.

When she informed him that such a policy was illegal, Junquera said he responded, "I don't care."

"My legs were going like this," she recalled, waving her hands in front of her chest.

Junquera is still in law enforcement, although she's a civilian now. Her new assignment will be captaining New Tampa's fledgling business crime watch program.

The program is intended to be a network of New Tampa businesses that will tip off police and other businesses to suspicious activity and crimes on their lots. Since it originated more than a year ago, the program has struggled to operate cohesively. One of the greatest challenges so far has been figuring out how to keep a phone tree from breaking down.

The key to a successful program will be continuing to recruit businesses. One hundred twelve have signed up, and Junquera hopes to sign up the remaining 50 or so -- and keeping them motivated.

"Without the public volunteering, this doesn't work," said Gary Bradford, in the Community Relations Bureau of the Tampa Police Department.

Junquera, who lives in Northdale, also will help coordinate efforts of the police department and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, which has jurisdiction outside the city limits.

Similar to a neighborhood watch program, block captains along Bruce B. Downs' business corridor will be responsible for jotting down notes on, say, a series of stolen cars in their parking lot, and then e-mailing or phoning other business owners. Junquera wants to hold two meetings a year for all businesses.

"A question will be: Are they going to have time to do this?" said Hunter's Green crime watch organizer Carol Poland, who, along with police officers, signed up the 112 businesses.

Junquera, 61, a grandmother of two, has worked as a crime prevention program coordinator in Tampa since 1982. Her position, which pays $45,000 a year, will eventually include other tasks like setting up workplace violence seminars.

She knows the area well, having worked as the community liaison for Hunter's Green about six years ago. Most recently she organized community outreach programs in the Robles Park public housing complex.

Born in Cuba, Junquera came to the United States in "1952 B.C. -- before Castro," she jokes. She worked as a flight attendant before entering law enforcement. She moved into an office in the New Tampa Regional Library last week. New Tampa is hardly a hotbed of crime. But as the population increases, so does crime.

Organizers hope that one day, if a bank is robbed on Bruce B. Downs, a manager will alert police and Junquera will send out a blast fax to all local businesses.

Police are also trying to work with developers to design building layouts that prevent crime -- for example, a shopping mall with only one entrance and exit to cut down on potential escape routes.

"The harder you can make it for the burglar, the better," said Junquera.

- John Balz can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or balz@sptimes.com.

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