To the Manatee County Sheriff’s Department and Residents of our county:
My neighborhood is Location, Location, Location, as realtors like to say. We are 20 minutes from Anna Maria Island, walking distance to McKechnie Field, Best Barbecue ever, near to The Village of the Arts, Old Main Street, as well as Riverwalk and major shopping venues. It sounds ideal, right?
Not so much. It is an older neighborhood. We have slumlords that don’t take care of their properties, rent to questionable folks who are frequently evicted and most importantly, we have crime. Many of us are vigilant, have followed proper procedures, talked with internal affairs, and have the sheriff’s office on our speed dial in attempts to keep our street safe.
In the past four months there has been robbery, vandalism, prostitution and drug dealing. When an “officer” responds to a call, his first response is, “Why are you living here? This isn’t safe. You need to move.” When a neighbor offered a video of drug dealing complete with license plate numbers, she was told, “You better erase that, it can lead to retribution. We know him, it’s a known drug house.” One officer even had the audacity to point out that she was a single woman and “Was asking for trouble by choosing to live here.” I had an officer say to me, “What do you expect living where you are living?”
Last weekend a neighbor had his side truck window shattered. He did the right thing. He called and reported it and asked for patrol. Two hours later he got a phone call from the Sheriff’s department and was forced to give information over the phone. The patrol would not stop by because it was only vandalism. I called and asked for a sheriff to stop by and assess the damage to reassure my neighbor and was refused. “We don’t do that, it’s Friday night.” My only recourse was to ask for extra patrols. Ironic, since we have few to none.
In my neighborhood, we believe in urban renewal. Preserve what is historic. Build communities regardless of race or means. It is our Sheriff Department’s charge to keep us safe, not ignore us because we choose to live and reinvigorate a marginal neighborhood.
We have plans for our street. It took 5 years to get streetlights, now we are beginning to pursue curbs and decent sidewalks, community gardens and finding ways to hold slumlords accountable. We are not going away. Our question is, why is law enforcement dismissing our street and urging us to move? How can we make meaningful improvements to our urban core if we are dismissed?
Something is not right.