The Sarasota Police Department is continuing its efforts to crack down on the illegal activity associated with large gatherings of homeless people in public spaces, expanding its focus to the bayfront.
After tenants surrounding Pineapple Park voiced their concerns about the homeless presence around the fountain last week, City Manager Tom Barwin directed the SPD to conduct an overtime patrol at Pineapple and Five Points parks.
The homeless population disappeared from Pineapple Park, but seemingly migrated to J.D. Hamel Park near the bayfront. Ann Godmere, a resident at Gulfstream Towers, contacted city officials on Wednesday regarding the sudden influx that the park saw.
“I am truly in shock how this park went from being beautiful and clean to a vagrant camp with drug sales in less than a week,” Godmere wrote. “The vagrants are loud, disruptive and unsightly, to say the least. We are concerned about our safety and our property.”
This afternoon, the bayfront park was empty — save for four police officers standing at its perimeter. SPD spokeswoman Genevieve Judge said the recent patrolling efforts now include J.D. Hamel Park due to complaints regarding loitering in the area.
Barwin said the city and police department is seeking to address situations like this in two ways: first, by more proactively enforcing the city’s codes, and second, by establishing a Homeless Outreach Team that works with homeless people without making arrests.
SPD Sgt. Lori Jaress said the Homeless Outreach Team, which is still in development, will work with service providers such as the Salvation Army and visit homeless encampments weekly.
Contact David Conway at [email protected].