PUNTA GORDA, Fla. -- A scary incident prompted a meeting as Punta Gorda Police try to curb drug use in a Charlotte County neighborhood.
However, some who live near the Cooper Community Center in Punta Gorda do not like so much police presence in the area. Cheif Tom Lewis called the meeting to talk about curbing drug use and drinking in the neighborhood by a group of people, who he said verbally threatened to shoot him and his officers. "In lieu of what's going on in the country, I thought it was best to actually sit down with the community before this thing actually gets out of hand," said Chief Lewis.
The community discussed the drug use and Chief Lewis laid out their efforts to clean up cigarette butts and beer cans left on the street. However, some neighbors feel they're being harassed by the police during their encounters. "He was about to handcuff me for 'security purposes'," said one citizen. "While I've got three children in the car."
Some said simple traffic stops turn into more and it's affecting their children's view of law enforcement. "The whole thing is, if I was pulled over for a stop sign, write me a ticket. Ask me for my license and my insurance, I'll give you that. If you're going to write me a ticket, write me a ticket. Why do I have to get out? Why do I have to be searched? Why do my kids have to see it?" said another citizen.
"The kids see them at school. Punta Gorda Police are at my school all the time," said another citizen. "But then if they see them on the street and they're harassing their parents, what are they suppose to think?"
Chief Lewis encourages anyone who feels they've been treated unfairly to call him, as they continue to try to work through issues specific to their community. "If you get the community involved and you allow them to self-police and actually help us with the problem, we often see more long-term results," said Chief Lewis.