Mannix About Manatee: June 30, 2013 Nothing good happens after 2 a.m.

June 30, 2013 

It's been a late night ritual every weekend the last two months.

A club closes, the crowd empties out, piles into cars and heads down U.S. 301 to Sarasota.

Sometimes it's a convoy of 50 to 60 cars with 200 to 300 people, maybe more, looking for a place to congregate and party some more.

Not all of them are tipsy joyriders, either.

Some are career criminals.

A recipe for disaster.

That's what Maj. Kevin Kenney, a commander with the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, calls it.

So does Palmetto Police Chief Rick Wells.

City of Bradenton Police Chief Mike Radzilowski does, too.

Joined by Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube, they're among the law enforcement officials trying to resolve a nettlesome problem of mutual concern.

One that has involved several shootings in the City of Sarasota since May.

"Gathering is not illegal, but if it's left unimpeded, congregating has led to violent incidents," Kenney said. "We're not going to tolerate it."

That a criminal element is part of these late-night weekend caravans down U.S. 301 does not mean they're all from Manatee -- as some Sarasota authorities might think.

"We all deal with perception and perception is not reality in this case," Radzilowski said. "All their crime is not Manatee County residents. That's preposterous."

Bradenton's chief cited a recent poll, NeighborhoodScout's® Top 100 Most Dangerous Cities in the U.S.

Sarasota is No. 100.

Bradenton is not on the list, but Radzilowski is sensitive toward our southern neighbor's situation, and he and Wells huddled with Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino about it.

"We're all chasing the same bad guys, career criminals who roam between here and there," he said.

His Palmetto counterpart agreed.

"It spills over from both ends," Wells said. "It's criminals from Sarasota and Manatee who are having differences and for some reason it's being taken out in Sarasota."

This dangerous dilemma reared its head a few days ago when Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight criticized City of Sarasota police during a Sarasota County Commission meeting.

At issue were the resources the SCSO has to utilize, Knight said, to help Sarasota police deal with these weekend visitors and the subsequent problems.

Knight said if it meant putting deputies on U.S. 301 and University Parkway in order to protectthe city of Sarasota, he'd do it.

You can envision a phalanx of flashing police lights at that intersection.

Not exactly a welcoming committee at 2:30 a.m.

Which is the idea.

"We want to displace and disrupt them to prevent them from congregating," Kenney said. "We're making every effort to displace that criminal element, especially the violent offenders."

That mission is abetted by intelligence -- advance and real time -- shared by Palmetto, MSO and BPD with Sarasota law enforcement, intelligence that enables it to prepare accordingly.

The county line does not stop such vital interagency cooperation.

"We're being proactive, keeping the lines of communication open," Wells said. "Our night supervisor will call the night supervisor in Sarasota and tell them a crowd could be coming your way."

This weekend being no different.

"We're ready for it," Kenney said.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Call Vin at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix.

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