Throughout the holiday week, YourObserver.com will be counting down the top 12 stories of 2009 (one from each month) from our Longboat, East County and Sarasota Observers. Check back each day fro a reprinting — and any relevant updates — of the biggest news items of the year.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED Jan. 29, 2009
The Downtown Improvement District (DID) has laid out its priorities for its inaugural year. Security and landscaping are at the top of its list.
“To me security is No. 1,” said Pat Westerhouse, a DID board member. “You can put all kinds of pretty landscaping there, but if people don’t feel safe, they’re not going to come.”
For that reason, the board plans to invite Lt. Jeff Karr, of the Sarasota Police Department, to its Feb. 3 meeting.
Karr has been working with the Five Points Neighborhood Association in its attempt to get cameras placed at Five Points Park to keep transients away.
Although they make up just 1% of Sarasota’s population, transients account for 34% of all robbery arrests and 23% of all burglary arrests.
“Cameras are a great tool to fight crime,” said Karr.
There are neighborhood grants available that can help pay for the cost of installing in the Internet-based cameras. The grants, however, do not pay for camera maintenance, and the neighborhood association had trouble finding the funds to pay for that.
The association faced a deadline of Jan. 27 to apply for the grant, so it informed Karr that it would not be seeking the grant or trying to acquire the cameras at this time, but it may do so in the future.
DID Vice Chairman Ernie Ritz said one of the security complaints he hears is that the lighting downtown is not bright enough.
Said Chairman Larry Fineberg: “We don’t have the money to replace all the lights downtown. We need law enforcement to (help us) figure out where to focus.”
UPDATE: Installation of one camera at Five Points Park began Dec. 2. It's expected to take about a month to complete. Two additional cameras will be temporarily installed at Main Street and Lemon Avenue.
Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].