Wednesday, June 12, 2013

INFO CENTRAL PRESENTS: Sheriff Bill Prummell

Rumbling thunder did not discourage 40 Islanders from gathering on June 12th to attend the latest in a speaker’s series hosted by Info Central.  Sheriff Bill Prummell came to participate in a Q&A.  He brought backup to the scene: Lieutenant Mike Anderson from the San Casa station, Dan Cotton from Community Relations, who is in charge of the Community Policing program, and our local Deputy John Stewart.

“We can’t be everywhere,” he said, commencing a brief description of plans for the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).  “Contact us and let us know what’s going on”.

Sheriff Prummell is working to increase manpower in the Englewood area, which will free John Stewart to spend more time on his Island beat.  He also mentioned steps that they are taking to implement “intelligence-led policing”: software systems that will help CCSO identify problem areas and times for law enforcement, as well as developing a “Top Ten” list of problem people in the County.

Question #1: Addressing issue on South Gulf Blvd still has not been addressed. Can the CCSO put extra pressure on the County?  Lt. Anderson spoke about other areas of the numbering grid in Charlotte County having the same issue. His suggestion: speak to Bill Truex (County Commissioner) about the problem.

Question #2: Memorial Day weekend was overwhelming out here. We need help during the holiday weekends.  Sheriff Prummell started by saying he must be honest.  “In the past, we’ve had Islanders saying ‘Focus on the visitors’,” he said.  “I don’t pick and choose.”  However, he did say that he is presently training 2 new marine patrol deputies, who should be available soon to help patrol the Island. He also suggested that Islanders can hire a deputy through the ‘off-duty detail’. The cost would be $45/hour.

Question #3: Abuse of golf carts i.e. kids on golf carts playing chicken after dark with the headlights out. “The resort is now renting golf carts to the south Island” said Dick Aulenti.  According to Charlie Schwartz, if you call the resort they will go out and pick up that cart, and make the rental contract null and void.

Also discussed was the ‘after-hours’ dilemma when the ferry stops running: do you call the CCSO knowing the difficulty they have in getting here?  “If you have an issue we want you to call us,” said the Sheriff. “Make sure you’re a good witness,” added Lt. Anderson. “Get the golf cart number or description, and a description of the driver and passengers.”

Dick Sadenwater introduced himself and Linda Cotherman as PIE’s Island Watch committee. He offered thoughts on a voluntary sticker program for golf carts associated with rentals. The sticker would cite the driver age ordinance, saying “You must be 14 years old to drive this golf cart.”  Dick also suggested a different sticker to identify a resident golf cart.  The ideas brought on discussion of a voluntary golf cart registration system. 

Question #4: If you find someone on your property, what rights do property owners have?  You can ask them to leave.  If they do not, call the CCSO.  The deputy can issue a trespass warrant and force them to leave. If they come back, the deputy can arrest them.

Question #5: What is Charlotte County’s noise ordinance? Test cases in beach areas involving loud music after dark resulted in the courts ruling that Charlotte’s noise ordinance, which is based on state statute, is unconstitutional.  There are presently no noise ordinances in Charlotte County.

Question #6: Can you talk about the difference between code violations, ordinances and laws?  Ordinances are laws, and breaking them is usually a misdemeanor crime. They include things like ‘open containers’ and ‘panhandling’.  Code violations are mostly quality of life issues, and include things like too many people in a rental house. “Law enforcement handles criminal violations” said the Sheriff.  However, he did say that CCSO is working on developing a “community policing” mode, not just addressing crime but also addressing quality of life issues.  One way they are pursuing this is by making contact with County code enforcement to work together on code violations.

Question #7: What about fireworks?  “Anything that shoots up or blows up, it’s illegal.”

Question #8: What about illegal trash dumping? Report it to the Sheriff’s office. They also have an environmental deputy who enforces criminal violations.

Question #9: What is the difference between “Neighborhood Watch” and “CCSO volunteers”? Neighborhood Watch is made up of local volunteers who patrol as a crime deterrent.  Sheriff Prummell says that CCSO volunteers are “Neighborhood Watch on steroids. They are our eyes and ears.”  Volunteers have uniforms, radios in direct contact with CCSO and can drive a squad car to patrol.  “They do NOT act”, said the Sheriff. “They are not armed and they are not sworn law enforcement.”

Kathy Sickles offered sound advice, having had a bad experience with theft at their home. “Do not leave your downstairs open!” she said. “If you have anything valuable lock it up.”

Val Pasqua summarized the mood of the crowd for Deputy Stewart. "Don't be our friend," he said.  "Give them a ticket! Word will get around."

As the session wound down, Sheriff Prummell assured the group that he is going to work on extra coverage for the upcoming July 4th weekend.

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