Bradenton Regatta

Officials seek additional security for Bradenton Riverwalk

BRADENTON -- Bradenton's Downtown Development Authority is seeking its board's approval to fund an additional police officer to patrol the city's new Riverwalk, which is scheduled to open Oct. 18.

"We want our residents and guests to know that there's not an issue with security," said David Gustafson, executive director of Bradenton's Downtown Development Authority.

The 1.5-mile Riverwalk spans along the Manatee River from the Green Bridge to Manatee Memorial Hospital. The renovated park includes new restrooms, playgrounds, a skateboard park and fishing pier. It will be open 24 hours a day.

"We don't want them (homeless) to think this is a place where they can sleep at night," Gustafson said. "We don't want them to think that's a new condo."

The Bradenton Police Department will have daily beat officers regularly go to the Riverwalk to enforce the city ordinance prohibiting people from setting up camps for a long period of time, said Bradenton Police Capt. Warren Merriman.

The officer monitoring the Riverwalk would be paid around $40,000, the department's starting salary, Merriman said.

"It's fine to sit at a park bench and read a book," he said, but people will not be allowed to stay there to sleep overnight.

"With our enhanced downtown Riverwalk we find that having an additional officer may help, one on the evening shift and one on the day shift," said Merriman. "We want visitors to be safe, that's of utmost importance."

The DDA board will decide on Sept. 25 whether to allocate the funds for security.

Miriam Valverde. Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter@MiriamValverde.

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