Community Policing Spiked On The Beach

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During the budget discussions Thursday night, Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros moved quickly to remove any funds dedicated to Community Police Officers on Fort Myers Beach. She’s been against the idea from the beginning and had two other council members ready to back her move.

Despite a plea from Bonita Springs councilman Jesse Pardon that Community Policing works, Hosafros, Mayor Ray Murphy and Councilman Bill Veach voted to remove the item from the budget while council members Dan Allers and Jim Atterholt voted against removing it. The cost for two Community Police officers, which is a service provided by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, is $240,000 per year.

Right now LCSO provides 2 LCSO deputies on a regular basis to Fort Myers Beach. That number increases, at the expense of Lee County, during season, busier weekends, holidays and Spring Break. What that number increases to is unknown. The town also contracts with LCSO for additional coverage at times throughout the year, at the discretion of the Town Manager.

Community Policing is a program where the same two LCSO deputies are permanently assigned to an area, in addition to the regular rotating coverage. Those two deputies are embedded in the community. They get to know the business owners and the residents and work on specific issues a town is having. It’s a pro-active plan, rather than always being reactive to 911 calls all the time.

Councilman Jim Atterholt was beside himself when the other three members removed the item. He said the recent shooting on the beach, the stabbing of Librarian Leroy Hommerding and other recent crimes have become a distant memory. He pointed out that the town Public Safety Committee voted 6-0 in favor of at least two Community Police officers. Public Safety Committee member Jim Knickle, a former police officer, said the town needed 4.

Atterholt also pointed out that Sanibel has a 24-person police department while Fort Myers Beach has 2 LCSO deputies. Hosafros mocked Atterholt saying not all 24 worked at the same time.

Mayor Murphy, who last week said he would consider adding community police officers for the residents on the beach, if LCSO added 2 more deputies, for free, to the regular beach patrol. Murphy said he heard nothing from LCSO on his idea. He also didn’t say he reached out to LCSO to ask them about his idea. Murphy has always believed it’s the responsibility of LCSO, not the town, to provide the correct level of coverage, whatever that is.

Regarding the Community Policing program specifically, Murphy said he doesn’t see how adding a couple more deputies, “checking on this or checking on that” will increase safety He also criticized Bonita Springs councilman Jesse Pardon saying, “that’s comparing apples to oranges. We are no way like Bonita Springs was at its worst. I’ve been here a lot longer than he has.”

23 COMMENTS

  1. Community safety and prevention should be our # 1 priority to every FMB Town Council members and mayor. We only have two councilman that hear the public’s concerns & unfortunately it’s 3-2 every time on major issues that needs resolved for the safety of this island which you are Responsible for. We have in Time square just alone homeless that are mental and or on drugs, it’s getting worse, it’s becoming more and more of a problem breaking in businesses, causing fights with visitor, threatening Business employees and their customers, FMB street lighting which can affect many nighttime crime problems such as burglary, robbery, and sexual assault.
    Providing Community policing would be helping our community just feel more safe. It’s called prevention!! It should be important that you feel safe where you live, work or spend your leisure time.
    Most communities have Community policing in place because it work!!
    The community/resident really need to look in to what’s going on with the Town mayor roxann and Bill saying this is extra income??
    YES audit is a must. This should be a major red flag folks & A huge concern to why the three are against it!
    How about safely for the Island?? This is your job!

  2. Extra income, I’m sure, if some outside accounting is done we will find it lines the pockets of the council members who vote foe them and the town manager. Residents can request an audit. You all have to get together and get them out. You don’t have to wait they are public servants. They work for you.

  3. Rexann’s argument is supported by many but it was fought and lost back in the mid 90s when then Lee County Manager Don Stilwell sold the county commission on the concept of core services and value added services. It was adopted and left to the politicians to decide what a core service is. Above that, you pay. The Sheriff’s Department quickly followed.
    Unfortunately today that is putting the island at a disadvantage.
    While this council keeps focusing on the shooting on the beach and various problems at Lani Kai, you hear nd read little to nothing on where the great majority of crimes are being committed – along the darkened, residential neighborhood streets.
    It’s there that the break-ins. tresspasses, muggings, drug sales from homes and even rapes happen.
    Community policing can’t reduce those crimes. The presence of squad cars down those streets can. With only two squad cars patrolling 7 miles of residential streets at night the island’s “core service” is woefully inadequate.

  4. Let’s all keep in mind, Dan and Jim wanted the additional hires. We shouldn’t lump the entire council into this irresponsible vote. Three council persons didn’t listen to the Towns best and most experienced expert, Jim Knickles. As laypersons on the matter, I find those 3 to be poor judges.

  5. Community Policing is a well tested, successful program that operates in Bonita Springs with great results. And it seems that the vast majority of FMB residents and business owners strongly support the concept. But never mind, we have three council members that know better. Unbelievable.

  6. Maybe we should abandon to pay the city portion of property taxes. It is just crazy they cannot come together after shootings. They really do not enforce any codes in regards to noise, no permitted work, dumping in canals in neighborhoods by city code folks or deputies. I have owned at beaches in NC been here for decade plus and beach politics happen. But who is holding them accountable? Once elected we are stuck with them. No one wants to run because it is a nightmare mess. We have this unqualified bunch of folks to trust with our biggest investment our property and homes.

  7. If I were the Public Safety Committee I would resign- When the council completely disregards (you with out any consideration to your recommendations) then obviously the Council members that voted to remove from consideration-don’t respect nor value your recommendation- and only follow their own agenda and not those they represent. They have show. Their true colors – voted the three out.

  8. This is infuriating! The health and safety of the residents and guests should be a top priority. They are quick to raise fees with “because that’s what Sanibel charges” as a reason, yet can’t see that this Community Policing is working well in other places.

    • Actually Jill community policing has not worked well in a good number of communities. It remains a controversial concept and has been found wanting by some towns and even among some law enforcement people.

      • Yeah – and cameras are going to solve all the issues. There is nothing controversial about having more police officers, ones that are actually assigned to the community.

        • That depends on what your problems are Norman.
          Community cops ride bikes, schmooze with the businesses and customers and come when a drunk is harassing people at a business.
          Keeping the island’s dark residential streets safe requires marked squad cars running regular rounds down those streets.
          Big difference.

  9. When is the next election??? We need positive & proactive people making decisions for the town. Sine that actually listen to its citizens.

  10. They raised the parking AND the rental application fee (500% increase BTW) and we can’t get a couple extra patrol people? Anyone know what the extra increases of income will go to?

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