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Downtown patrons react to possible safety changes in Fort Myers

Surveillance unit deployed in effort to curb violence
Fort Myers
Posted at 5:22 PM, Aug 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-19 09:12:47-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Thursday, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office deployed a mobile surveillance unit to downtown Fort Myers in a continuing effort to curb violence in the district

The unit was placed near the intersection of Main Street and Hendry Street after city council members called for extra safety measures in the area. 

In a Twitter post, Sheriff Carmine Marceno said LCSO had partnered with local law enforcement agencies to keep residents and visitors safe.

On Thursday, people who live in Fort Myers and frequent downtown talked with Fox 4 about other possible safety changes recommended by Fort Myers City Council members.

“I think they kinda need to have more police presence in that area, especially during closing hours,” said Bryan Richards.

MORE: As Chris Shaw reported in 2017, Chief Derrick Diggs said he would rely on computer analytics to help predict areas where crime prevention would be proactively needed. He said it was a program that worked well in his previous department in Ohio. Click here to read that story.

The area Richards talked about is a parking lot in downtown Fort Myers, where a Sunday morning shooting happened just after bar time, and now Fort Myers Police Department says they’re looking for a 29-year-old Jasmine Battle, who FMPD has identified as their suspect.

As police were trying to find Battle from the shooting that injured one person, Fox 4 had been following how the city council and even business owners are calling for more safety policies downtown.

Council member Johnny Streets has been one of the two main voices calling for policy change, and his list, has more than 40 suggestions:

  • downtown safety ordinance
  • special use permit
  • fights lead to gunfire
  • private parking lots with security guards
  • enhanced proper lighting
  • limiting the size of outdoor speakers
  • enact several checkpoints
  • offer security grants to business owners
  • all parking lots and garages required to have security guards or police stationed nearby at night
  • Sufficient police presence- police and sheriff
  • post rules throughout our city, on city property
  • use the print and video media to educate the public
  • enact higher levels of fines for violations
  • for those who commit serious infractions can be barred from downtown or a business owner can have a patron or group trespassed for disorderly conduct or disorderly intoxication
  • sworn officers working special events should be trained and briefed before activities begin and debriefed after activities are over
  • have downtown police command an emergency center centrally located (mobile)
  • close some streets to vehicle traffic
  • focus on stopping people from entering event areas with illegal weapons
  • anyone with a concealed carry permit must register at checkpoints
  • see something, say something
  • police captain or above oversee all operations
  • besides, uniform officers use plain clothes officers and all should work in teams of two
  • only assign officers who want to work at an event
  • have a helicopter available from LCSO just in case
  • don't make it political
  • transparency
  • accountability
  • consult your police accountability board
  • mentoring
  • PTSD
  • city council support
  • what are businesses willing to pay for extra
  • informants
  • information technology
  • drones
  • mission and vision statements
  • generational
  • bridging the gap
  • right time, in the wrong place, or wrong time in the right place
  • equal protection under the law

One on that list would be a downtown safety ordinance similar to a law streets tells me Orlando uses in its downtown district, which allows certain parking lots to close after 10 pm.

On Wednesday we had cameras rolling when Fort Myers police walked into Fort Myers City Hall to go over these ideas with councilman Streets.

According to Streets, he would want an ordinance that would allow police checkpoints in certain parts of the city, with the goal to keep people from bringing weapons downtown.

An idea I asked people about who frequent the downtown area.

“Freedom is more important to me than a lot of that checkpoint stuff, I love the police presence that's very good, they can keep a lot of that,” said Bryan Richard.

"If it's going into clubs and facilities, they definitely should be doing pat downs and so forth to make sure there are no weapons or illegal substances, stuff like that," said another resident.

Another main recommendation from Streets would be to position security guards at night for parking lots like the one where the Sunday morning shooting took place.

Streets said either hiring security guards or having more police near certain parking lots could help deter some of the late-night violence downtown.

“That can’t hurt just the presence of not just law enforcement but people I think would stop a lot of that,” said Richard.