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.
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.