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Sarasota Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010 7 years ago

Disputed crime reports lead to Siesta Key e-mail battle

by: Robin Roy City Editor

What began as a warning to the community about two reported crimes on Siesta Key has turned into a heated e-mail battle between neighborhood groups and the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce.

The two reported crimes occurred late last month. During a house party on Higel Avenue, someone broke a window and stole several purses from a room in the home. The second report was about an alleged mugging in a Siesta Key Village parking lot.

Ann Kaplan, president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA), sent an e-mail Jan. 31, detailing those two reports to 24 people, including neighborhood leaders, a sheriff’s office sergeant, County Commissioner Nora Patterson and members of the media.

A day later, Lourdes Ramirez, Siesta Key Association president, sent an e-mail to many of the same people, saying that she believed some laws aren’t being enforced on the Key, such as noise in the Village and dogs on the beach. Because of that, she said some people might believe no laws are being enforced, which could cause crime to increase.

The next day, the executive director of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, Jim Haberman, checked with the sheriff’s office and sent his own e-mail.

“Lourdes, I am frankly shocked and disappointed that you, Ann and the Siesta Key Association would deem it appropriate to distribute provocative e-mails with no regard for the accuracy of the information,” Haberman wrote.

Sgt. Scott Osbourne told Haberman that he suspects a partygoer stole the purses, not someone off the street, and that he couldn’t confirm the alleged mugging actually took place, and if it did, it may have occurred in Gulf Gate.

Haberman believes that giving what he feels is a false impression of rampant crime on Siesta Key could not only hurt businesses, but also affect residents’ property values.

Ramirez fired back, maintaining that the mugging did happen.

“It is misleading to the public to act as if no crime occurs on Siesta,” she wrote. “We can’t put our head in the sand.”

Ramirez said she believes the chamber may be trying to protect the political ambitions of Mark Smith, the former president of the Siesta Key Village Association who is running for County Commission.

“That assertion is false,” said Haberman. “The chamber hasn’t taken a position on the race.”
But there is a benefit to the subsequent discussion and debate about the reported crimes, according to Ramirez.

“We are talking together in the community and becoming more aware,” she said.

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