An alert about late-night weekend trouble spot in Bradenton-Sarasota

July 3, 2013 

Crime knows no boundaries since lawbreakers rarely distinguish between jurisdictions. This presents challenges as law enforcement agencies must deal with this constantly moving threat.

This issue burst into the spotlight in this region during a Sarasota County Commission meeting when Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight laid some sharp criticism on the Sarasota Police Department. He stated the agency was not doing enough to combat crime in the city, with his deputies taking up the slack with patrols and enforcement and reducing the city's crime rate.

Knight threatened to station deputies on U.S. 301 and University Parkway to protect the city of Sarasota.

One county commissioner then remarked about troublemakers venturing south from Manatee County to bring mischief to our southern neighbors -- as if Manatee is a major source of Sarasota crime. That got our attention. The idea that Manatee residents are the cause of north Sarasota crime is nonsense. Sarasota residents venture north to visit nightclubs, too, and then head back south.

But Sarasota's sheriff had a valid point about stationing patrol cars along this major north-south highway. And Manatee County's law enforcement leaders know this all too well -- which Herald columnist Vin Mannix detailed in his incisive commentary on Sunday. His reporting laid bare a societal problem hitherto not publicized.

After midnight on weekends, clubs close here in Manatee County and patrons pack into vehicles and drive south in large convoys. Imagine 50 to 60 cars packed with 200 to 300 people, even more sometimes, seeking a spot to continue partying.

The crowd includes criminals. Some are violent. The city of Sarasota has witnessed several shootings since May.

This weekend trend surfaced only about two months ago. Since these caravans crisscross the region's various jurisdictions, area law enforcement agencies are wisely working together to corral this dangerous problem.

Bradenton Police Chief Mike Radzilowski and Palmetto Police Chief Rick Wells are cooperating with Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino, providing intelligence so Sarasota law enforcement agencies are alerted to crowds heading south. Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube is also a part of this unified effort.

We'd welcome a strong show of force at the county line late on weekends to discourage and disrupt these gatherings. The potential for violence engulfing a neighborhood and causing collateral damage with residents caught in a crossfire is all too real.

And we applaud the critical interagency cooperation.

As Radzilowski told Mannix, "We're all chasing the same bad guys, career criminals who roam between here and there."

Knight's statements to Sarasota's county commission did the public a service. He alerted residents to a problem best avoided by supporting law enforcement's efforts to put a stop to these troublesome gatherings.

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service