Lakewood Ranch residents want 24/7 sheriff patrol

srocco@bradenton.comDecember 19, 2013 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- After a recent onslaught of burglaries in Lakewood Ranch, some residents want the Community Development District boards to consider having armed Manatee County sheriff's deputies patrol the Country Club neighborhoods 24/7.

According to the sheriff's office, there have been more than 30 burglaries in the area since April.

Steve Edwards, who lives in the Sandhills neighborhood in CDD 5, brought up the idea at a December homeowners association meeting.

"There's an increase in robberies and the burglars realize they can have five to 10 minutes in a house before the sheriff gets there," Edwards, 70, said Wednesday.

If deputies patrolled the neighborhoods 24/7, police response time could dwindle, he said.

The extra security would cost each homeowner nearly

$150 per year. If districts 2, 5 and 6 adopt the 24/7 service, residents would pay an increase of 41 cents per day in annual fees, said Steve Zielinski, Lakewood Ranch chief financial officer. If district 6 doesn't join, residents in districts 2 and 5 would pay a little more -- 51 cents per day.

"Based on the low cost and the fact that we're far away from the heart of Bradenton ... it would make sense to consider this because these homes in the Country Club are worth a few hundred thousand to over a million dollars," Edwards said.

Randy Warren, sheriff's spokesman, said deputies are already patrolling the area 24/7, and extra security would require additional funds.

"As far as having somebody doing a specific detail and staying in a smaller zone, then those are things that do take some planning and can involve some off-duty pay," he said.

"However, we work those zones and even drive into gated communities. In most cases, we're less than couple of minutes away from responding to a call."

Sandhills resident John Oakes, 71, also favors the added patrol.

"I think it's a good idea. It would work toward the situation," he said.

District 5 board member Thomas Leavey's home was broken into Nov. 7 while he was on vacation in Paris. Leavey said he is open to considering extra patrol.

"My feeling is that we need to test this system to reassure the residents. Assuming everything is agreeable costwise and if the sheriff's office can provide these deputies, I think it would be worthwhile," Leavey said.

Leavey also said the patrol doesn't have to be 24/7. The board could reduce the number of hours deputies patrol the area for speeding to devote more time to night watch.

Richard Moran, district 2 board member, said he's open to further discussion on more supervision.

"It may be time," he said. "We had a neighborhood meeting last week and people were interested in the sheriff having a (greater) presence here."

Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow @sabrinarocco on Twitter.

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