More warnings than tickets issued by Lakewood Ranch special patrol

dgraham@bradenton.comFebruary 21, 2013 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Only five drivers received tickets out of 15 people who were stopped by Manatee County Sheriff's officers on special patrol in the Lakewood Ranch County Club area in December, a statistic that caught the attention of supervisors from Community Development Districts 2 and 5.

However, they did note that the extra patrol has helped ease traffic problems.

District 2 representative Dick Moran questioned the number of warnings given in lieu of citations, leading to a discussion of speeding and the running of stop signs in the golfing neighborhood during Tuesday's workshop meeting. Seven warnings were issued for stop sign violations, while only one ticket was given for failure to stop. Four speeding tickets were given, but at least two warnings were for drivers going more than 10

miles an hour over the limit.

Ryan Heise, Lakewood Ranch director of operations, said that the board members understood deputies needed discretion.

"When we received the sheriff's report, the concern was presented that warnings were being issued rather than tickets. Of special note were people speeding more than 10 mph and these people were receiving warnings rather than tickets," Heise said.

Off-duty deputies from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office work nine hours per week, each for three-hour shifts. They are equally paid by the three districts contained within the Lakewood Ranch Country Club area, Districts 2, 5 and 6, at a cost of $30 per hour. The arrangement began in April 2012.

"If every traffic stop were exactly the same, you wouldn't run into this, It's up to each deputy's discretion," said Dave Bristow, public information officer for the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. "It's an education process out there to get people to slow down. We think it's working overall from talking to the people out there."

Not all board members agreed. "I don't have a problem with them writing warnings. It sends a message one way or the other," said District 5 supervisor Marty Cohn, who sees deputies drive through his neighborhood. "They move around during their three hours. They don't stay in place."

District 5 member Tom Bishop thinks the program is working well.

"I'm more interested in getting the behavior changed rather than having people pay for tickets," Bishop said.

District supervisors have made no decision on whether to seek changes with the extra duty patrol.

"You can look at it two ways. If, in fact, they're not a lot of tickets being written, that could be seen as OK. People are complying," Bristow said. "Or you could say if there were a lot of tickets being written, you would have people being lined up out there at town hall (complaining)."

The purpose of the patrol, according to Bristow, is education, including trying to get drivers to come to a full stop, not just glide through the intersections.

"In all residential areas from time to time we get complaints on traffic. It's not just in Lakewood Ranch. We get it in northwest Bradenton, in Ellenton, in Bayshore Gardens. People speed on I-75 and on U.S. 301. You're always going to have speeding as a problem," Bristow said.

The sheriff's office routinely has three to six deputies on patrol in the area south of State Road 64 to the Sarasota County line and east of I-75 as far as Lorraine Road, which covers more than the Lakewood Ranch districts.

Dee Graham, Herald reporter can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7027, or tweet @DeerGrahamBH

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