BRADENTON -- Hundreds of hungry people came to the Police Athletic League on Thursday for a good $3 spaghetti and green beans meal and an opportunity to talk issues with Sheriff Brad Steube and his Manatee County Sheriff's Office staff.
More than 260 residents at the biannual "Supper with the Sheriff" listened, shared comments and asked questions during a short event packed with important messages.
"I want to thank the staff of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office who all do an outstanding job of keeping you all safe," Steube said.
Hot topics in the community and media colored the evening's discussions.
The sheriff discussed the recent state ban on Internet cafes, which will affect two Manatee County businesses. "We are just about done with a letter we are going to personally deliver to every one of those businesses," Steube said. "It will outline the law and once we know everyone has received the letter, we will start following up to make sure everyone is complying with the new law."
The increase in crime in the county, specifically in residential and vehicle burglaries, was another top issue.
Steube said the increasein burglaries caused a 3percent increase in the over-all crime rate, which he hopes to slow down by adding 20 deputies in next week'sbudget proposal. Steube said MSO is short 300 deputies and 100 correctional deputies.
Another way to fight crime is by promoting awareness, he said.
Crime Prevention Lt. Lorenzo Waiters said simple common sense tactics can often help people avoid becoming a victim.
"If you have something of value and you don't want to put it in a safe, put it in safe place in your home and remember where you put it," Waiters said.
Waiters gave many other crime prevention tip but focused on three.
"If there is every anything suspicious, call 911 ... when somebody knocks at your door you always want to acknowledge that there is someone home and with all these scams starting with the Boston bombings ... before you give out any of your information -- investigate."
Residents also asked questions.
"It would seem most out here doing the crimes out there are repeat offenders. Why are they getting out?" asked one man.
Major of Investigations Connie Shingledecker said drugs drives the recidivism.
"Part of the problem is most of these offenders have drug problems," Shingledecker said.
Shingledecker said the department has teamed with the State Attorney's Office to tackle some of these "frequent fliers."
Some residents just had compliments.
"I'm a foster mom, and I've had to use that hotline a couple times, and you guys have responded within two hours. I just want to thank you," she said.
Others merely expressed frustrations.
"When someone throws a bomb, they go after the bomb throwers. When somebody shoots us with a gun, they go after the guns from the law-abiding citizens," another woman said.
"If you see something that seems out of the ordinary there will probably be a law enforcement officer on the corner by you," Steube said. "So go up to them and they will investigate. We will be just as vigilant as you need us to be."
Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter on @JDeLeon1012.