New initiative after 24 homicides in 2012
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. - It's a New Year but many families of the 24 murder victims in Fort Myers are having a hard time moving on as they wait for someone to be arrested for the murders of their loved ones in 2012.
There are a number of things that go into prevention and solving murders and one new initiative started Wednesday puts more police presence on the streets in a different way to keep you safe.
"It's extremely frustrating," said police chief Doug Baker as he looks back on the homicides of 2012. The highest number it has been in decades.
"As the police chief, as a resident of Fort Myers, when you hear the number '24' what goes through you head?" asked Four in Your Corner's Kelli Stegeman.
"Well, I'm not satisfied with it," Chief Baker said.
19 of the 24 murders remain unsolved. Police have identified suspects in many cases, but they need witnesses to make arrests.
"This is more than just throwing people at a problem or more than just throwing money at a problem because that just doesn't work," he said.
Chief Baker believes if he had help from the community, 90% of these cases could be solved by now.
"Why you would allow an individual that is selling drugs in your neighborhood from a street corner, from a store, from a house, why you would sit by and idly let that happen?" Chief Baker asked. "I still don't understand it."
You could call it a New Years resolution for FMPD, build better community relationships to solve the crisis.
"We have identified several neighborhoods within the Dunbar community and we're going to focus on foot and bike patrols from 8 in the morning to much later at night and the goal here is to meet with the residents, to meet with business owners so that we can establish a better communication and establish a better relationship," he said.
A relationship that needs to be about trust.
"Until that change, these individuals that are involved in violent crime will continue to bully the community and hold the community under his thumb," Baker said.
He has a message for the victims families and their killers.
"We haven't forgotten them, we're not going to forget them, and in the event that you are participating in violent crime, we will see you in the near future."
Baker says he's confident in the next few months at least four of those homicides will be solved.
But, there's another important piece to the puzzle; the partnerships with other law enforcement.
A few weeks ago FMPD invited a Department of Justice representative to do an internal review on how things can improve. The department also works closely with other federal agencies like the FBI.
But perhaps the most critical is the relationship with neighborhing law enforcement like the Lee County Sheriff's Office. Back in July, Sheriff Mike Scott reached out to offer help, including adding more deputies to patrol in Fort Myers.
With the number of murders in 2012 being the highest in decades, these partnerships are vital and aren't going anywhere.
"It;s important for us to make sure that Lee County has our information because my bad guys are going to go to Lehigh, they're going to go to North Fort Myers, they're going to go to Cape," Baker said. "So Cape Coral has to have that information. So we get together weekly to discuss who is going where, where our hot houses are, where our people are laying their heads down at night."