FORT MYERS — Fort Myers Police say people living in the City are safer than they’ve been in the past four years.
Chief Derrick Diggs presented new crime statistics to City Council Monday, showing crime is down 50% since 2016. Chief Diggs said the dropping crime trend has a lot to do with the Department’s work trying to connect with the community.
It’s a relationship that was damaged after a report in 2017 alleged corruption and lack of experience at the Department, but Diggs said those problems are far in the past.
Diggs was very clear when he said during the meeting Monday, the new crime stats mean only one thing.
"The City is safer today than it has been in the previous four years," said Diggs.
In addition to reporting a 50% percent drop in overall crime, the Police Department statistics also show a 25% drop in arrests since 2016. Diggs said the trend is happening because they took the criticism in that 2017 report, done by the Freeh Group, seriously.
"Even though there was some damaging things that were said about the Police Department, we came in, we embraced the report, we got those recommendations all accomplished, and that led us to the direction that we are now, and we’re seeing the success of that," said Diggs.
But the criminal justice experts the Department is working with say there is still work to be done.
They provided a heat map showing the areas of the City still seeing high crime.
One of the red areas on the map was the intersection of Veronica S. Shoemaker Blvd. and Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. That’s where we met met Roger Richey, who lives nearby.
"Have you seen all the broken windows in cars? They break the windows out of the cars and rob them. You go through the neighborhood over here and you take pictures, all the cars have got plastic on the windows," said Richey.
Dan Gerard from the University of Cincinnati is one of the four experts working with the Department.
He said the plan is to focus on the stores that the Police Department has determined are “crime attracters”.
"They can work with those businesses to change the conditions at that business, or if the business categorically refuses to change the conditions at that business, then at that point in time, the Fort Myers Police Department can work with the City and some of their outside partners and take some non-law enforcement action," said Gerard.
Gerard and the other experts also recommended that City Council put together a survey to gauge how the community feels about the Police Department. The City Manager said that could be released in 5 to 6 months.
Chief Diggs said the long-term goal is to build trust.
"Working hard to drive down and try to make sure we break down the barriers of folks in the community, so they will start supporting us," said Diggs.