Sheriff: Lani Kai Making Changes to Curb Crime

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As the Fort Myers Beach Town Council considers creating a Nuisance Abatement Board, the Lee County Sheriff’s Department has updated members on what the Lani Kai is doing to correct it’s high crime call numbers.

Following the murder of 22-year old Johnny Jackson back in July on the property of the Lani Kai hotel, town Council members Dan Allers and Jim Atterholt have been pushing for a Nuisance Abatement Board to give the town another tool to deal with locations on the beach that have become magnets for crime.

Statistics show that the Lani Kai hotel has received thousands of calls for the Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department over the past several years. Those calls range from simple wellness checks to the murder in July.

The hotel recently hired a risk management consultant to act as a traffic cop to help navigate the political environment the hotel now finds itself in the center of. All 5 town council members want the high volume of calls to the Lani Kai to change. How they get to that solution is what they’ve been debating.

Lee County Sheriff Captain Andrew Prisco

At a recent Management & Planning session Lee County Sheriff’s Captain Andrew Prisco answered questions about whether a Nuisance Abatement Board would be helpful. Councilman Atterholt said the challenge is that the town has locations that have been problematic for years and that’s the concept behind the Nuisance Abatement Board. “If that location has created a climate that precipitates this reoccurring activity it seems this could be helpful. Your team knows there’s been one address on the beach taking up a disproportionate amount of resources and nothing has changed. Nothing’s been happening. The data shows that is the problem spot.”

Atterholt was referring to the Lani Kai and said if what’s been done in the past hasn’t worked perhaps a Nuisance Abatement Board could help. “Why hasn’t the Sheriff’s department gone in there and required changes? It sounds like you don’t have the structural capability to do that. You can respond (to calls) but there’s nothing within the Sheriff’s department that gives you the opportunity to go into that business and say you need to change X,Y and Z or these are the repercussions that are going to occur.”

To everyone’s surprise, Captain Prisco asked Atterholt what location he was referring to. He said Atterholt’s description of what’s taking place wasn’t fair and the Sheriff’s department met with Lani Kai ownership on four different occasions since the murder. He said the Lani Kai has put corrective measures in place to try to curb the number of calls for service.

Prisco listed off the following measures the Lani Kai has implemented:

– Guests will be given wristbands. Non-guests will be asked to leave.

– Hired two deputies on busiest days of the week and another two deputies on holidays.

– A resort fee of $9.95 per day

– Increased all bar beverages by 50 cents.

– They will now charge a $10 parking feel for anyone visiting the hotel. Previously guests paid $10.00 and received $10 in hotel vouchers.

– Established a ‘do not rent to’ list

– Hired an outside consulting firm to train their staff on security measures.

Prisco then said the Lani Kai needs to be given time to see how the changes pan out. Atterholt said that was the first he’s heard of those reforms and he welcomes the Lani Kai ownership coming to a council meeting to share information.

Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafras said nothing that was said during the Sheriff’s presentation changed her mind in favor of voting for a Nuisance Abatement Board. “I think we are going down the wrong road with this. They are already doing the work that we want to have done. If the circumstance should arise where we have a property owner thumb their nose at us, then yes, we’ll do a Nuisance Abatement Board. I have not heard of that happening yet. I think it’s quite a bureaucracy to create when we don’t necessarily have the problem yet.”

The Nuisance Abatement Board is expected to come up for a vote later this month.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for your opinion as continued dialogue is positive to rectify the situation. But, if you read her last statement in the above article it clearly states: “I think it’s quite a bureaucracy to create when we don’t necessarily have the problem yet.”

  2. I was going to give a brief overview of our background on FMB and an overview of the 2 times we’ve been to the Lani Kai, but we are no different than the hundreds of other residents that love the island and want the Lani Kai to be held to a higher FMB standard or be accountable when not.

    With that said, here are my questions to Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafras who doesn’t seem to think there’s a problem at the Lani Kai:

    1. What’s the ratio of Sheriff Department calls to other resorts, hotels/motels or condo rentals in comparison to the Lani Kai? What’s the comparison even to bars, where liquor is primarily served? Based on the lack of communication heard, I’m going to assume there’s no comparison.
    2. I’m not sure what the ratio is, but I have a feeling the Lani Kai has a much higher call volume than other establishments. Why is that? The other establishment are obviously doing something differently (correctly) than the Lani Kai. What are they doing differently that the Lani Kai can start to do? Maybe:
    a. Increase the minimum age requirement for room rentals or admission to the bars?
    b. Increase room rates?
    c. Increase drinks (more than $.50 from current prices)?
    d. Create an atmosphere that is directed towards a more mature customer? How many Sheriff calls have been to their Island View Restaurant (mature customer) versus the rest of the resort’s bars?
    The Lani Kai doesn’t need a Risk Management Consultant to figure this out, just a good Marketing Consultant.
    3. Why does every other FMB rental establishment average between 3-5 stars on the various ratings websites, but the Lani Kai averages 1-4 stars? Is this the type of establishment any resident wants in their backyard?
    4. Why do you need to give Lani Kai time to implement changes before deciding on The Nuisance Abatement Board? That says to me that Lani Kai knows they are in the wrong, and just don’t want to get fined. What will happen a year from now and everything just goes back to the way it was? If they truly are an upstanding business on the island (like the rest of the resorts without any issues), then they shouldn’t have to worry about The Nuisance Abatement Board.
    5. Check the meaning of BUREAUCRACY: A system of government in which most of the important decisions are made by “state officials” rather than by “elected representatives”. My understanding is that The Nuisance Abatement Board would be a subset of the Fort Myers Beach City Council, which I believe are elected officials. Do you think your City Council would run this Board like a bureaucracy? If so, maybe we need a new Vice Mayor and City Council.
    6. Are you friends with Condaris? No need to respond.
    7. Finally, Vice Mayor, what do you consider a problem? Last time I checked, murder was a problem!

    We don’t want to see the Lani Kai shut down, just cleaned up and crime free. We will be another resident that continues to support the establishment of The Nuisance Abatement Board in hopes we don’t need to see the Sheriff’s Department in and out of the Lani Kai.

    Thank you,
    Another Concerned Resident

    • Carol, I don’t think it’s accurate or fair for you to say that Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafras doesn’t “seem to think there is a problem at the Lani Kai”. She simply said she doesn’t think the NAB is the answer to the problem and that’s not even close to the same thing.

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