To the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and residents of our county:
My neighborhood is 20 minutes from Anna Maria Island and walking distance to McKechnie Field, best barbecue ever, Village of the Arts, Old Main Street, Riverwalk and major shopping venues. Sounds ideal, right?
Not so much. It is an older neighborhood where slumlords exploit both their tenants and community. We have crime. But homeowners are vigilant. We follow procedures, talk with internal affairs and keep the sheriff's office on speed dial, seeking to keep our streets safe.
In just four months there has been robbery, vandalism, prostitution and drug dealing. Responding law enforcement begins with, "Why are you living here? This isn't safe. You need to move."
When offered a video of drug dealing complete with license plate numbers, citizens are advised by deputies, "You better erase that, it can lead to retribution." One officer suggested that a single woman "was asking for trouble by choosing to live here."
Since when is "What do you expect living where you are living?" an acceptable response to the report of a crime?
A neighbor's truck window was shattered. Two hours after he called the sheriff's department, they called back to take his report over the phone. No patrol would stop by because "there were no gun shots."
After talking with dispatch to request assessment of the damage and reassure my neighbor, the response was, "We don't do that, it's Friday night."
In our neighborhood, we work for urban renewal, historic preservation and a strong sense of community. The sheriff's department is responsible for public safety of every citizen in every neighborhood, except ours and others like it.
Encouraging lawful citizens to leave their homes and neighborhoods to slumlords and other criminals is unacceptable.
So ... how will we grow?