Sheriff takes action to fight crime in Fort Myers
FORT MYERS - After crime skyrockets in Fort Myers. The Lee County Sheriff is stepping in to help take back the city. The Sheriff says crimes are happening in the police chief's own backyard and that's why he's taking charge and stepping up patrols.
These vacant houses in Downtown Fort Myers have been a magnet for vagrants and criminal activity.
Attorney Richard Pringle represents the Strayhorn estate which owns these properties. He says Fort Myers police officers have kicked people off the property for the past year but they keep coming back, "They've stolen copper pipes and water lines and things from underneath the houses. I've had to board up windows and replace windows that they've broken out so they can gain access to the houses. They would hide behind the houses and there was one place they even had a little fire pit where they were sitting around drinking beer."
That's why Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott recently initiated an effort to step up patrols in Downtown Fort Myers, specifically the area around the police department's headquarters. Even though trash and beer bottles are still strewn throughout the Strayhorn estate, Pringle says it's a lot better than it used to be. And even though the Fort Myers police department is basically right across the street, he says deputies are the ones who are cleaning things up.
Pringle says, "Sheriff Scott, when he saw what was going on, he was willing to step in and just throw a lot of resources at the problem all at one time and I think that made the difference."
Last week, someone smashed out the front window at Pete's Electric, just a block away from the police department. Sheriff Scott says deputies are the ones who contacted the owner first and the window was then boarded up.
Pringle says the police department should work with deputies to make the city a safer place, "I think they were doing what they can do, the Sheriff's Department just has more resources."
Chief Doug Baker wouldn't respond to questions about whether he needs help fighting crime. Today the Sheriff offered to help him with the city's graffiti problem but Chief Baker says he doesn't need the help because he has launched his own initiative.