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Sheriff Marceno: ‘We are laser-focused on the mission’

February 6, 2019
By JESSE MEADOWS (jmeadows@breezenewspapers.com) , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Town of Fort Myers Beach will see an increased police presence in the coming weeks, according to Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno.

"We are setting a presence and a tone," he said.

He told the public at Monday's town council meeting that the office is taking measures to increase public safety in light of recent events.

"The homeless have been a very big, hot topic. While we are very sympathetic to the homeless... at no time will that compromise the safety of any person in this county," he said.

He told the packed council chambers that they are starting a database of individuals who are homeless to "keep track of them" and installing surveillance towers.

"It creates that omnipresence," he said of the towers, which are equipped with cameras to record and sometimes manned by an officer.

He encouraged residents to call the Lee County Sheriff's Office at 239-477-1000 if they see anything suspicious.

Many residents have complained that their calls to the LCSO go unanswered.

"I can guarantee if you phone the Sheriff's Office and you ask for a deputy, we're going to help you. And if we have not, I want to talk to you personally," he said.

He told council that the LCSO issued 90 trespassing warnings on Fort Myers Beach in the past four months, with 96 arrests since September and 233 citations.

"The numbers are not going to lie, we're out there, we're working," he said.

While residential properties can have anyone trespassed by calling the police, Marceno said commercial properties must post "No Trespassing" signs on all corners of their property, every 500 feet.

The owners of the Topp's property have authorized the Town to put up trespassing signs on their behalf, according to Town Manager Roger Hernstadt.

Councilmember Bruce Butcher questioned Marceno about the police response to the first stabbing at the Topp's property on Jan 9.

"The victim was giving us conflicting stories. We could not get enough to make an arrest," he said.

"The most infuriating part of my job is when we have no cooperation when someone is a victim of a crime, or someone knows a suspect, and they say, I didn't see anything and I know nothing."

Councilmember Anita Cereceda said that this is because of an "absolute code" in the homeless population.

"They don't turn each other in," she said.

She was present at a recent meeting of the Ministerial Association of Fort Myers Beach.

According to the ministers who oversee charity services like God's Table, there are currently 56 people who are homeless on the island.

"Pastor Critser said that only 4 percent of the people that utilize the pantry at the Beach Baptist Church are homeless. The other 96 percent that utilize that service for food are underemployed, unemployed, or people that just need that to make ends meet," she said.

The God's Table program has received criticism from the community recently, but Cereceda said that getting rid of it would not change anything.

Pastor Steve Atkinson at Chapel by the Sea suggested it could even make things worse.

"If it ever goes away, I promise you the crime will increase," he said during public comment.

"(Jesus) said the poor are always going to be with you. This is not a problem that's going to go away."

He told council they have been evaluating the program and assessing what they can do differently.

Another idea has been bouncing around town - a dedicated Fort Myers Beach police force.

"I encourage you to research how much more we would pay for our own police department. The fire department is seeking property to build a new firehouse. Maybe the building could combine police and fire," resident Jan Fleming told council during public comment.

But Marceno told council that the LCSO struggles with manpower.

They're currently down 70 positions, and officers face an 8-month process before they can go on patrol.

Councilmember Dennis Boback suggested that the Town use an emergency trailer they have in storage as a mini-substation for the LCSO.

"We want to consider every idea," Marceno replied.

 
 

 

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