August 1, 2016 | Categories: Other
In response to some media stories about the recent, tragic shooting outside Club Blu that reported an inflated Fort Myers crime rate, I’d like to set the record straight and provide details of the city’s ongoing efforts to fight crime and poverty.
Although one national newspaper reported that Fort Myers’ rates of homicide and overall violent crime “are about triple the national average, and significantly higher than those of any of Florida’s large cities except Miami,” in 2014, Fort Myers’ crime index (total crimes) was, in fact, about 35 percent higher than the national average. As Fort Myers has grown since 2002, the city’s crime rate has actually decreased.
As the urban center of Lee County, the city of Fort Myers had 79,000 residents in 2015. As County Seat, the city welcomes and provides service to many of the 650,000 Lee County residents and almost 5 million annual visitors. The city population swells each day to over 100,000 people who enter the city for work or patronize the hundreds of businesses and eating and entertainment establishments located within the City. The City may be “small” in size but it provides exceptional “big-city” services to a socio-economically, ethnically, and racially diverse community that extends well beyond political borders.
In 2003, the city annexed a large underserved area from the county, since city leaders felt the municipality was best positioned to provide vital services and assistance to improve the community. Although this annexation produced an increase in the city’s poverty statistics, the city is actively pursuing solutions to lift up areas with the greatest needs.
This was an especially tragic incident because it cut short promising young lives. All of us who represent and serve the city, including the FMPD and LCSO, take all crimes very seriously, and we are continuing to do all we can to make our city a safe place for all of our residents including our youth, adults and elderly.
The City is taking action on these issues every day, and in the last 18 months has made significant changes to make the city safer, including:
• Installing 118 video cameras downtown, with plans to add additional cameras in other areas of the city;
• Establishing a joint task force among the city Police Department, county Sheriff’s Office, FBI, and Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) that has made hundreds of arrests, taken numerous weapons off local streets, and worked together to stop crimes before they occurred;
• Hiring a new police chief to lead the department forward;
• Hiring additional police officers, with more budgeted for 2017;
• Increasing the focus on community policing;
• Redeveloped and revitalized plans in economically depressed areas in the MLK corridor through grants from the state Department of Economic Opportunity, with federal technical assistance from the National Resource Network, to provide programs and solutions to address urban blight and workforce housing shortages.
• Approving an independent audit of the FMPD to examine policies and procedures and identify areas for improvement.
Fort Myers is a wonderful place to call home, and those causing the problems in our city represent a very small percentage of our community. We implore all of our citizens to help us get these individuals off the streets by acting as additional eyes and ears for law enforcement. No matter where you live, if you see something, if you know something, come forward and speak up before something happens. You never know whose life you may be saving.
I remind anyone who has any information regarding crimes they are requested to contact the Fort Myers Police Department at 321-7700. Callers may also call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS or text message C-RI-M-E-S (274637) Keyword FMPD. Tipsters can remain anonymous.