BRADENTON -- After more than 20 years of having a plainclothes unit, the Bradenton Police Department is sending these officers out in uniform.
Over the years, the unit has changed names each time its mission shifted.
Most recently, the group was called the Casual Clothes Unit and its mission was to help combat burglaries and motor-vehicle thefts in the city. The unit was made up of four officers and one sergeant.
With the number of burglaries and larcenies on the rise this year, Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski made the decision to disband the unit.
"It didn't appear to me as they were having success," Radzilowski said. "So we put them back in uniform so we are going to attack burglaries and larcenies with prevention by increasing our uniform presence."
In the past, the unit has been called the Crime Reduction Team and Safe Streets.
"We did it up in D.C. and it worked, but it didn't work here," said Radzilowski, a
30-year veteran of the police department in Washington, D.C.
The chief said he thinks residents will appreciate the increase in uniformed officers on the street.
The change, he insisted, was no reflection on the the officers' performance, but instead was a change of tactics.
"They didn't do anything wrong," Radzilowski said. "I know they don't like it, but as I told their supervisors, I have to make the best decision for the city."
In 2013, the number of larcenies increased to 1,480 from 1,440 in 2012, according to data reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Motor-vehicle thefts also increased in 2013, to 86 reported from 75 in 2012.
Lt. James Racky, SWAT team leader and the detective division's lieutenant, backed the chief's decision to increase the number of officers on patrol.
"Hopefully, it is going to decrease crime because we always are about crime prevention and making the city safer," Racky said. "They are going to be scheduled to work shifts and areas that have increased in crime to give a proactive approach to policing."
Adjustments have to be made all the time, he added. There is also nothing that stops these officers from being put back in plainclothes if the need arises.
"It doesn't shut the door completely," Radzilowski said.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.