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Bradenton Police to use DDA's 14th Street building


BRADENTON - City Councilman Patrick Roff believes the presence of police on 14th Street West in his ward will be a positive sign for the community.

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On Thursday, the Downtown Development Authority unanimously approved a year-to-year lease of 1404 14th St. W. to the Bradenton Police Department for use as a police substation.

"It will enhance existing community policing efforts along the Trail, in the 14th Street CRA and in the Bradenton CRA," DDA executive director Mike Kennedy said.

They are estimating $10,100 in one-time unit costs, a monthly expense of $1,200 a month for power and other items. The total annual expense will be $14,400, and the $24,500 is deemed an appropriate use of money from the 14th Street CRA by CRA attorney Bill Lisch.

The police department will close another substation and move into this one.

"This will give us an opportunity to expand our operations to 14th Street and give us more visibility along the Trail," said Deputy Chief Jeffrey J. Lewis of the Bradenton Police Department.

He said there would be some traffic officers located at the new facility. "It would definitely be an advantage to us," he said.

Capt. Russ Tibbitts noted that the crime statistics they've been tracking have fallen. "That is an absolute direct result of our chief's implementation of a real, honest-to-goodness community policing concept," he said. "You hear a lot of departments say, 'We're community policing,' and they're not really."

This is part of an effort to move the police department into the city and away from the main building, and it's proven to work over six years.

"I'd love to move in there now," Tibbitts said. "As well as we've done, we've just begun. We're just at that beginning stage, and we're already beginning to see some improvements."

It's just the beginning of the process, he said. "If this is a go," he said, "then my staff and myself will work as hard as we can to earn your faith and earn your trust and to move into this city and make a go of it."

"I spent a great deal of time thinking about what we could do on 14th Street," Roff said. "It's very hard to turn something around like that. It's very hard to do. This is all brand-new territory."

The moving of operations and the demolition of Our Daily Bread says, "There's a new thing coming," he said.

There will be 34 officers, five supervisors, himself and three or four traffic officers in and out of that building, Tibbitts said.

"It won't be a 24-hour base," he advised the members. "We won't be there 24 hours a day," but officers will be coming and coming. "We cannot staff that." Those officers are on shift work, and they need to come and go, go on restroom and meal breaks, and do hard-copy paperwork, too.

When asked if he would rather staff it around the clock, he said, "I wish we could."

They will post a note that if no one is at the office, Tibbitts said. The signage outside the building will make it clear that the building is being used by the police, he said.

Roff said just having the police cars around is a deterrent.

"I know from practical experience, I live in that community," Roff said. "Nothing scares criminals like our blue and white cars. They show up, the criminals scatter. It's just that simple."

The trouble is that the parking lot is full of blue and white cars, but the criminals are up on 14th Street, he said. "There's no criminals down here," he said. "They're down on 14th Street. Those cars can be put to work when they're doing nothing. When they're sitting in a parking lot, they're scaring bad guys."

With the new police facility on 14th Street, that presence will help the neighborhood. "Whether there's people in that building or not, there'll be a car sitting there, or two, or three, or a dozen."

"This is a dream of mine," he said. "I know the effect that this will have."


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