Cop Car Costs: Uniformed officers working private security jobs

Posted at 6:15 PM, Feb 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-23 19:18:30-05

CAPE CORAL, Fla. -- It’s a thorny issue; a real dust up. The abandoned brush-covered Cape Coral Golf Course continues to generate controversy for hundreds of homeowners. And Fox 4 uncovered what could be a liability issue for taxpayers.

It’s a real jaw dropper for neighbors: Cape Coral cop cars cruising the abandoned golf course. Are people getting robbed or mugged?

Fox 4 investigator Alan Jennings obtained an official police call out sheet that doesn’t show a single felony crime there in all of 2016.

So why the show of force on the property?  And who is paying for it?

Fox 4 discovered paid off-duty Cape Coral cops driving taxpayer-paid patrol vehicles, cruising the abandoned golf course.  Officers were dispatched to scare off joggers.  Like the sign says, leave or get arrested.

The officers are hired by Florida Gulf Ventures, the very company planning to build 500 homes there, despite frantic public outcry from residents who live on the edge of this 175-acre parcel.

One homeowner, Henry Heerlyn, says he feels betrayed by Florida Gulf Venture and city officials because the homeowners have been fighting against development.  He thinks the police department should have turned down the off duty work, suggesting FGV hire private security.

Cape Coral Police say Florida Gulf Ventures aren’t getting any special treatment. It offers the same service to any person or company.  Lt. Dana Coston said FGV pays $40 per hour: $30 to the officer and $10.50 for the patrol car.

A check with Fort Myers Police shows a similar program with a similar cost structure.

We checked in with Avis Rent-a-Car.  It charges $148 per day, or $6.17 per hour for a Ford Explorer -- actually a few dollars less per hour than Cape Coral Police.

Some residents are concerned however, that the $10.50 per hour for a police vehicle may not be enough.  They want to make sure there aren’t any hidden taxpayer costs down the road.

We reached out to Cape Coral mayor Marni Sawicki to see if she would review the city’s private security costs.  The mayor has not returned our call.