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Fort Myers Beach considering community policing contract

Posted at 8:54 AM, Jul 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-19 08:58:26-04

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla — The town of Fort Myers Beach is considering the possibility of a community policing contract.

Around 600 people were recently surveyed by the town's public safety committee. When it comes to protecting the island, close to 70% said they'd be in favor of a contract like this.

Fort Myers Beach is an incorporated municipality that doesn't have its own police force, so it relies on The Lee County Sheriff's Office for police protection.

Right now, the island gets a core level of service from the agency. Anytime it needs to beef up security, it comes with a price tag.

"Traffic duty during the season or extra deputies on holiday weekends, and that sort of thing, we pay them, we contract with them extra for that" said Mayor Ray Murphy.

But lately, the mayor said the idea of community policing has come up, which would be an increase to that core level.

The sheriff's office would provide the town with its own deputies and charge them per deputy each year.

"They would be down here full-time, and this would be their beat so to speak. They'd get to know the business owners, and get to know residents and so forth. And if we had special issues for them to work on, they could dedicate their time to that," Mayor Murphy said.

This is what the City of Bonita Springs has in place.

However, when it comes to who would pay for it, people surveyed were nearly split about if they'd want it to increase taxes.

They were asked a series of questions that shed light on why some may be willing to pay for it. Including whether they feel police requests are responded to in a timely manner. Most do, but about 30% have concerns.

People also seem to feel mostly safe on the island during the daytime. However, the number of people who feel unsafe at night goes up.

For the area from Times Square to the library, most said they feel unsafe.

Mayor Murphy said there's been some recent crimes that may be contributing to this, but he doesn't believe the town has a problem overall.

"A year or so ago, we had an incident down here where there was a shooting and a young guy was killed, very unfortunately. And then there was another incident here last Memorial Day, this past Memorial Day, where a gunshot was fired on the beach, but very isolated incidents," said Mayor Murphy.

"We don't have a big crime problem down here, per se, you know. But there are incidents like this that get people aware, and get them nervous, and get them thinking about things, and maybe some don't feel safe as a result of that," he said.

The results from this survey are so new, they haven't even made it on a town council agenda yet. However, the mayor and other town leaders have been considering the options, as they get ready to formally discuss.