Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

East Gateway residents ask Clearwater City Council not to cut community policing team

CLEARWATER — They came to City Hall to talk about streetwalkers, drug houses, break-ins, drunks and vagrants.

They were describing the blighted East Gateway area where they live. The main approach to downtown Clearwater has long been crime-ridden and dilapidated. Ten people beseeched the City Council on Thursday night to keep the community policing team that patrols the 175-acre area.

Officials heard them out but could make no promises. Clearwater will be making deep budget cuts soon, and it appears that no part of the city's work force will go untouched, including the Police Department.

"We really can't ignore any department, given the level of cuts we're talking about," said City Council member Paul Gibson. "We're talking many millions of dollars."

Community policing teams who get around on bicycles in the East Gateway and Clearwater Beach areas might be scaled back or eliminated entirely to save money.

A consultant who was hired to assess Clearwater's police force recommended that the city phase out a four-officer BeachWalk team, saving nearly $312,000 in salaries and benefits, and cut the number of East Gateway community officers from seven to four, saving $220,000.

The officers' jobs would be cut through attrition, not layoffs. The consultant said the community teams are expendable because those areas can be policed by patrol officers assigned to those districts.

But East Gateway residents take issue with that. They say the community officers have made a noticeable difference.

"I know you all have a tough decision to make," resident Ron Daniels told the council, "but I think it would be a terrible thing to go backwards now."

Shelley Kuroghlian, a member of the grass roots East Gateway Coalition, described how the community officers have reached out to all kinds of residents, going door-to-door to sign people up for a neighborhood watch.

Coalition member Joanna Siskin warned that the area's crime problems could spill into other parts of the city: "What happens in the Gateway doesn't stay in the Gateway, and it impacts all the neighborhoods that border it."

However, the city expects to have to cut $7 million to $13 million from its budget for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

And at the same City Council meeting Thursday night, several North Greenwood residents pleaded with the council not to close the North Greenwood Library.

Mayor Frank Hibbard and other council members said they want to review City Manager Bill Horne's proposed budget next month before they begin making decisions. They intend to spread the cuts around.

"Throughout this process, I am going to make sure that the pain is as equitable as we possibly can make it throughout the city," Hibbard said. "We're going to get to a point where we're talking rec centers vs. a police officer, or library hours vs. rescue units for the Fire Department. Those are the decisions that we're going to be having."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at or (727) 445-4160.

East Gateway residents ask Clearwater City Council not to cut community policing team 05/22/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 22, 2009 8:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 18: Despite feeling ill, this pilgrim passes the midpoint in her 500-mile journey on foot


    Day 18: Lédigos to El Burgo Ranero: 34.3 km, 12.25 hours (Total for Days 1-18 = 428 km (266 miles)

    Today was a struggle.

  2. Former Rays/current Cubs manager Joe Maddon featured on NBC Sunday news show


    Former Rays and current Cubs manager Joe Maddon will be featured on this week's "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly" show at 7 p.m. on NBC, the Harry Smith interview covering not just Maddon's on-field accomplishments but his extensive efforts to help his hometown of Hazleton, Pa.

    "Here's what's so …

    Joe Maddon talking with NBC News' Harry Smith.
  3. For starters: Souza returns to lineup



  4. Actor John Heard dies at age 72


    John Heard, who played so many roles in the '80s but was probably best known as the dad in the Home Alone movies, has died, according to media reports. He was 72.

  5. Linkin Park cancel tour, including Tampa concert, after death of singer Chester Bennington


    This news is not a surprise, but it is now official: Linkin Park has canceled their upcoming North American tour following this week's death of singer Chester Bennington.

    Linkin Park's Chester Bennington