Residents in the Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores have had enough — enough of the crime, enough of the drug dealing, enough of the prostitution that they say is ruining their neighborhood.
“It wears on you,” said resident Tom Stephens.
The neighborhood called together the top law enforcement and judicial officials in Sarasota to come up with a solution to their problems.
Police have made 77 prostitution arrests this year in North Sarasota.
Chief Judge Lee Haworth, of the 12th Judicial Circuit, believes that alternatives to incarceration, such as drug and alcohol treatment, are the only answer to the crimes plaguing North Sarasota neighborhoods.
“We don’t have enough space to put all the hookers in jail,” he said.
More than 200 residents showed up to a meeting during which officials offered advice on how to rid the area of crime.
“We need more folks who are not afraid to take a stand,” said Police Chief Mikel Hollaway. “We need communities to help us. We can’t do it alone.”
Also in attendance were Ed Brodsky, chief assistant state attorney; Capt. Paul Sutton, Sarasota police; Jeff Steiner, of the police department’s Nuisance Abatement division; Linda Holland, Court Watch; David Beesley, president and CEO of First Step of Sarasota; and Bryan Pope, general manager of Salvation Army.
The No. 1 piece of advice from the panel was for residents to get involved — call police when they see a crime or something suspicious, testify in court as a victim or witness and create crime-watch programs.
“We need to draw a line in the sand,” said Hollaway.
According to Sutton, most crimes are committed to support a drug or alcohol habit. That’s why he believes the First Step substance-abuse treatment center is an important tool. He cited hundreds of former addicts who have successfully been treated at First Step.
“There are 300 people (in Sarasota) who used to be addicted who are now sober, working and reunited with their families,” he said.
Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].