Does Fort Myers Beach have enough law enforcement coverage to address the public safety issues it’s now facing? At least two town councilman, Dan Allers and Jim Atterholt, believe increasing a police presence on the beach should be considered.
At the town council’s next Management & Planning session the topic of Community Policing will be on the agenda. The council will discuss the possibility of hiring two Lee County Sheriff’s deputies who are specific to Fort Myers Beach. The cost would be $112,645 per deputy. Two deputies are required for scheduling reasons.
Currently, the Lee County Sheriff’s department covers the beach as it does every other community it’s responsible for in Lee County. For the most part, deputies are responding to 911 calls. They are dealing with rowdy drunks, noise complaints, a homeless person who may be harrassing people and other crimes that are called in. Community Policing is different.
Community Policing would be the hiring of two specific officers who become part of the community, getting to know residents and business owners. They become familiar faces in the community.
Councilman Atterholt pressed the issue at this month’s M&P meeting stating “the potential rewards for the island are significant.” Atterholt wants the town manager to set aside funds for the officers in the 2021 budget just in case the full council decides this is the way they’d like to go. He suggested the town try it for one year as a pilot program and work with the public safety committee to put metrics in place to measure its success.
Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros is not onboard with adding the officers yet. “I’m not convinced its a good idea. I want to know how it changes our liability,” she said during the discussion. “It could be a huge issue. We do not have a police force therefore we are not named in lawsuits. If we start paying for them that has the potential for people to name us in lawsuits. I’d like to know if that’s true and how liable we might be under that scenario.”