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When crime comes to your community


I have to confess that I live in a pretty good area.

It cost good money to live there, and I like my house in the suburban part of Ellenton. Back when it was under construction, during the boom, the subdivision looked like a place on the way up. Living there was like the fulfillment of the American Dream.

So when I read one morning that there had been a home invasion robbery, and that some damage had been inflicted on a house in the process of the robbers escaping, suddenly it came home to me that you can be in the suburbs, and feel a lot less safe.

After work, I take my walk through the development, with NPR's talk shows on my iPhone, and observe what's going on. On Wednesday, I walked down where the attack had taken place, saw the damage caused by a car that tried to go between the houses on a quiet block I had walked countless times, and wondered about my community.

We're hardly ever in the news in this part of Ellenton. Oh, sure, there have been news stories that I remember from my days at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and a recent series by that paper detailed the "flipping" that took place. It explained a lot about why there are so many empty houses in our subdivision, and so many rental houses.

It's not hard to notice the houses with the unmaintained lawns, the houses with four or more cars in the driveways and the houses that were finished but never lived in. Not to get into an owner vs. rental thing, but there have been renters who have treated the community as if they didn't care that people who owned in the neighborhood wanted it to be nice.

There's always the suspicion, which I remember from my Herald-Tribune days, when we covered seemingly unoccupied houses in North Port that turned out to be marijuana grow houses, that there may be illegal activities going on, from making illegal substances to selling them.

People I know in the community have talked about their worries with each other, with me and with the Sheriff's Office. And it's easy to attack everyone who rents; it's terrible that a few bad apples can spoil life in a community for everyone.

At a Bradenton City Council meeting on Wednesday, during the council members' comments, mention was made of four houses on a street where bad things were happening, that there were some dangerous dogs there, and with school opening soon children would be walking past that house.

The representative of the ward wanted something done, and the police chief promised that he was aware of the problem and working on it. Sitting in the audience, taking notes for my stories on the meeting, I thought those problems were something remote and outside my realm. After all, I thought, I live in a nice suburban subdivision in Ellenton, where not much happens.

I was wrong, I learned when I came to work and visited a competing news Web site.

Budgets are tight for government, and the Sheriff's Office has had to cut back. We want to feel safe and secure, and our sense of security is being eroded. Part of it's our fault. We want the lower taxes and less government, but we want those men and women in uniform to show up immediately when someone does something bad in our community.

On Thursday night, I walked down to the scene of the invasion. The house that had lost its electrical meter, and had its air conditioning unit destroyed by the car that tried to pass in the narrow corridor between two houses, was being repaired. A new meter was connected, and a worker was hooking up a new air conditioning unit.

On the outside, the damage has been repaired, but I know for the people who live in that part of the subdivision - and indeed the whole subdivision - a sense of safety is being lost.


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