Hosafros: Bonita Set a Bad Precedent

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Residents in Bonita Springs that felt safe on Memorial Day may disagree with that statement. While she said she’s a big supporter of the Lee County Sheriff’s Department, Fort Myers Beach Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros doesn’t believe Community Policing is something Fort Myers Beach residents should have to foot the bill for. And she thinks Bonita, which has 14 Community Police officers, has put Fort Myers Beach in a bad spot.

Hosafros told LCSO West District Captain Tim Lalor she has real reservations about the Community Policing program, which councilman Jim Atterholt and Dan Allers have been pushing hard for.

Hosafros told Lalor on Wednesday that the Community Policing program is not the right way to fund things. “You are a part of Lee County. Lee County should be providing you more resources to give all parts of Lee County adequate Sheriff services.”

Hosafros said she wanted to see what the budgets for the Sheriff have been over the years. “Are they adequately funding you so that communities don’t have to come forward and help you out.” The most recent budget document on the LCSO website showed a proposed 2020/2021 budget of nearly $198 million and over 1,000 certified officers.

Lalor told the council members on Wednesday at their Management & Planning meeting that the community policing program has been in place in Bonita for several years and is very successful. He said it’s a more of an enhanced program to dive into the issues constituents have. “This helps us dive more into things like the noise ordinance, or the transients, or a special traffic concern.” Hosafros then cut Lalor off and said, “Those are your duties everywhere all the time. And if you aren’t providing those, you need to get more funding from the county is the way that I see it.”

Hosafros said what Bonita did by initiating the community policing program is start a bad precedent and we’re being asked to build on that bad precedent. “Bonita should have gotten together with us and other communities and gone to the Lee County Commissioners to tell them the Sheriff isn’t being provided adequate resources to address what we have as concerns.”

Bonita Springs launched its community policing program over a decade ago. In addition to regular coverage provided by LCSO, Bonita has 14 community police officers from LCSO and two detectives. District 2 City of Bonita Council member Jesse Purdon is a big proponent of the program. He tells BTRN that the budget for Bonita’s community police force is now $1.82 million. Bonita Springs has a population of 65,000 people. Watch this video about community policing in Bonita Springs.

There’s a substation in downtown Bonita directly across the street from Riverside Park. Anyone can walk in and file a report. Two secretaries staff the office at all times. The mission of community policing is to combat crime and preserve quality of life issues.

Fort Myers Beach Councilman Bill Veach called community policing back-door funding that masks the under-funding going on at the county level. He called it being more reactive rather than proactive.

Hosafros added I’m not questioning what the Lee County Sheriff’s Department does, “I’m just questioning the way you do it.”

Veach also floated the possibility of paying for additional police coverage through alcohol sales, which sounded like he was proposing some sort of tax but he did not elaborate.

Dan Allers said we have to stop pointing the finger at others. Our BASE patrol was not equipped to handle Memorial Day. And, he said, he doesn’t think 2 officers will be enough. He thinks more than two is what will be needed.

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