Although the area isn’t a hotbed of criminal activity, some members of the Casey Key Association feel the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office isn’t giving the island the attention it deserves.
At a meeting Monday, the Casey Key Association discussed an ongoing issue: people illegally parking on private property. An email from one resident sent to the association board said officers came to their property three times while it was under construction. Each time, a person was on-site who shouldn’t have been, but officers ultimately let the offenders go.
The specific incident spoke to a larger pattern Casey Key residents have had difficulty addressing. Without more stringent police enforcement, they believe there’s no way to reduce the number of these occurrences.
“Any excuse a person has is accepted, and the police let them walk away with a warning,” Casey Key Association President Chad Weiss said.
Last year, nine residential burglaries took place on Casey Key, and residents aim to keep a close eye on any suspicious behavior. Association Director Julie DeRice argued there was not a significant difference between a stranger trespassing on somebody’s property and a stranger trespassing inside of a person’s house.
“The police don’t take this seriously,” DeRice said. “I think they think we’re all just paranoid.”
Weiss said the group and other Casey Key residents have a good relationship with the Sheriff’s Department, but that it was difficult to seriously tackle the issue. The department has said the area doesn’t have a significant crime issue — 2013 data shows just 57 crimes in total and a 27% decrease over the past three years. The issue may be minor in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still a nuisance for people in the area.
It’s not really hurting anybody, but nobody likes it,” Weiss said.
The Casey Key Association has taken some steps to attempt to eliminate trespassing and other suspicious behavior in the area. In 2013, the group installed a security camera to monitor cars passing over the bridges leading to the island, and the Sheriff’s Office uses the footage as needed for investigations.
Perhaps most significantly, Casey Key residents keep a vigilant eye on any potential issues, alerting their neighbors in the process. Association Secretary Valerie DallAcqua said she recently received three calls from other residents when a beachgoer was parked on a vacant lot. That incident was relatively minor, but the mentality will be useful if something more troublesome occurs.
“The very best proactive thing that’s happening right now is that we’re looking out for each other,” DallAcqua said.