An almost quarter million dollar donation has funded the departments purchase of new license plate recognition cameras and computers for its police cruisers
The Longboat Key Police Department hopes technology upgrades to be purchased with a private donation will help make law enforcement and crime prevention easier for its officers.
A donation of $234,216.35 will enable the department to buy 25 laptop computers and software for its patrol vehicles and an enhanced license plate recognition system to replace cameras installed almost five years ago.
“This doesn’t happen every day, and I’ve never had anybody come to me, or the department or the town, for that matter, with this kind of money for enhancements,” said Police Chief Pete Cumming.
All of this money came unsolicited from Ryan Flanzer, 25, a Scarsdale, New York, native who owns his own record label and manages talent and locations for MTV’s 'Siesta Key' program. Flanzer said he cold called the station, told them who he was and that he wanted to help.
Flanzer, who has lived at the Resort at Longboat Key Club for about nine months, said he’d initially wanted to donate his time — he’d grown up visiting the Key and walked around the house telling his parents he wanted to be a police officer.
So the two met in August and Flanzer asked the Chief what would help make the island safer for residents, Cumming said. It took a few months but by November, Cumming said he’d come up with a plan.
He’d gotten quotes on new traffic monitoring cameras — somewhere around $152,000 — and what it might cost to get new hardware that can connect with the license plate monitoring system for the department’s cruisers, which would run police about $81,000, Cumming said.
“I kind of wanted to put in the legwork and grind and get things done, but if this is how I can most effectively help get things done, then so be it,” Flanzer said.
The island now has six license plate cameras, mounted at either end of the island, that were installed in 2013. The new devices will replace those at the northern and southern bridges, Cumming said.
A third set of cameras is planned for Bay Isles Parkway, Cumming said. The new technology will, among other features, allow the department to determine how many cars use the island as a throughway rather than a destination.
“I would have been planning on putting it in next year's budget,” Cumming said. “I don’t think I could have budgeted for everything that’s getting paid for with this donation.”
Flanzer said he hadn’t planned to donate the money. He’d actually talked with police about coordinating some sort of fundraiser, Flanzer said. But when he thought about how long that might take to raise the kind of money that the department would need, Flanzer said he decided to make a difference now.
“It means a lot to me, it really does. I love Sarasota, but I’m specifically passionate about Longboat Key,” Flanzer said. “My earliest memories are out here. It was super spontaneous, out of love and passion.”
The donation will be officially recognized at a scheduled Feb. 21 Town Commission workshop meeting at Town Hall.