FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The brother of NFL player and Fort Myers native Sammy Watkins turned himself in to authorities, completing a huge gang sweep by the Fort Myers Police Department.
Last week, police arrested 21 of 23 wanted members of the "Lake Boyz", a gang terrorizing the Harlem Lakes neighborhood, as part of 'Operation Great Lakes'. One of those members is deceased, and the last wanted person was 24-year-old Jari McMiller. He turned himself in Monday.
Some say the city feels a little safer because of the operation. "People in that area probably feel safer because they feel like the new chief is actually doing something," said educator Ladovic Kimbel.
McMiller has prior charges including resisting arrest, battery on an officer, and illegally carrying a firearm. He is the brother of NFL wide receiver and hometown hero Sammy Watkins, although it appears the two have taken different paths. An article on the NFL's website features Watkins discussing he and his brother's upbringing in the Harlem Lakes area, where they witnessed an abundance of violence. Watkins refuses to return to the neighborhood, while his brother became involved in illegal activities.
Community leaders applauded the Police Department on the big sweep, but also said their work isn't done. "It's going to take more than the arrest of 20-plus men to eradicate the problems that we have in this community," said Gerri Ware. "I just pray that if there are more kids that are in these gangs, you've got to have a renewing of your minds. You've got to get away from that attitude of violence."
Kimbel agrees, calling this a small part of a the bigger picture. He believes the community needs to get more involved with the youth in Fort Myers before they turn to gangs for fun. "Why don't we open school gyms in the summer and let youth based organizations use them to provide things for our young people to do," he said.