Thursday, December 14, 2017
Public safety

Clearwater Beach is bustling, so city plans more visible police presence

CLEARWATER — Having the title of the best beach town in Florida comes with pros and cons.

The pros: People flock to Clearwater Beach — one day during the Fourth of July weekend, about 25,000 cars drove through the area — and businesses and hotels are thriving, officials said.

Among the cons, says Clearwater police Chief Anthony Holloway: "You're going to get the good elements and you're going to get some of the bad elements."

To keep up with the influx of beach visitors, the city has approved new officer positions at the Police Department. Come Oct. 1, the department will hire two officers, train them for 21 weeks and then assign them to Clearwater Beach, possibly just in time for next year's spring break.

"We want to have a very visible police presence," said City Manager Bill Horne. "It discourages crime."

The newer hotels and businesses, like the Hooters on Mandalay Avenue, have attracted more visitors, Horne said.

Currently, 24 officers working five shifts are assigned to the Clearwater Beach district. Patrol officers often park their cars to walk and chat with the crowds, a strategy Holloway calls "park, walk and talk."

Detectives at the beach analyze crime patterns. Plainclothes officers conduct surveillance.

Three to seven officers are out at the beach at any one time, Holloway said. During large-scale events, some officers may be pulled from the mainland and sent to Clearwater Beach. During spring break, 20 officers were assigned to the beach at a time, the chief said.

"If you want to come to Clearwater Beach and enjoy yourself, that's fine," Holloway said. "We're not here to see a bunch of people drunk on the sidewalk."

Officers haven't detected any major spikes in crime, though they continue to target beach blanket thieves. Since May, more than 40 of those thefts have been reported. Holloway said thieves typically snatch iPhones. Sometimes they take only one credit card from a victim's wallet so they don't arouse suspicions.

Police have made more than 10 arrests related to the thefts.

In July, some Clearwater Beach residents complained to city officials that they had spotted beach visitors who had gang-related tattoos.

"We made citizen contact, we looked at the tattoos," Holloway said.

Only a few of the visitors turned out to be related to gangs, but they had not committed any crimes while on the beach.

"Since then, I haven't seen any reports of officers saying they are hanging out or claiming a corner," Holloway said.

Laura C. Morel can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157. To write a letter to the editor, visit tampabay.com/letters or mail letters to the Tampa Bay Times, 1300 Cleveland St., Suite 100A, Clearwater, FL 33755.

Comments
Florida Missing Child Alert canceled for Jacksonville boy, 2

Florida Missing Child Alert canceled for Jacksonville boy, 2

A Jacksonville boy, 2, who was reported missing early Thursday morning, has been found safe.A Florida Missing Child Alert has been canceled for Legend Jones, who had last been seen in the 1900 block of Fouraker Road in Jacksonville, according to the ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Palm Harbor woman, 23, killed while crossing Seminole Boulevard

SEMINOLE — A Palm Harbor woman was killed Thursday night after she was struck by an SUV while crossing Seminole Boulevard.The incident occurred around 8:45 p.m. just north of 53rd Avenue N, deputies said.According to deputies, 23-year-old Kala Gombos...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Crash downs power lines, closes N Florida Avenue in downtown Tampa

TAMPA — A portion of North Florida Avenue is closed in downtown Tampa as TECO crews repair downed power lines after a crash late Wednesday night.The crash occurred around 11:35 p.m. at the intersection of N Florida Avenue and E Fortune Street, accord...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Pinellas sheriff disciplines deputies in arrest, but not for excessive force (w/video)

Pinellas sheriff disciplines deputies in arrest, but not for excessive force (w/video)

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has suspended two deputies after an internal investigation found they violated agency policies during the arrest of a 25-year-old man that turned violent.The sheriff handed down 15 days to Deputy Alexander Edge, who Gua...
Updated: 1 hour ago
St. Petersburg police arrest Bob's Carpet and Flooring heir, several others, in death of 22-year-old woman found in alley

St. Petersburg police arrest Bob's Carpet and Flooring heir, several others, in death of 22-year-old woman found in alley

ST. PETERSBURG — Police have arrested several people, including a son of a prominent flooring store chain’s late founder, as part of an investigation into the death of a 22-year-old woman whose body was found in an alley last year. The w...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Thefts from cell towers interrupted service, deputies say

Thefts from cell towers interrupted service, deputies say

Lost cell signal recently? The culprit could be a 40-year-old Ruskin man who deputies said stole thousands of dollars worth of the equipment that powers cell towers. The theft interrupted cell tower signals on at least two occasions, deputies said, i...
Published: 12/13/17
St. Petersburg police sergeant demoted after throwing bullet at fellow officer

St. Petersburg police sergeant demoted after throwing bullet at fellow officer

ST. PETERSBURG — A long-tenured St. Petersburg police sergeant and executive vice president of the local police union is being demoted to the rank of officer after he threw a bullet at another sergeant while on duty, the department said Wednesday.Jam...
Published: 12/13/17

Train strikes stalled semi, out spills frozen chicken, beef and fish

LAKELAND — Residents got some frozen treats the hard way Wednesday morning, hours after a CSX train struck a semitrailer truck, splitting it in half and spilling its load of frozen beef, chicken and fish onto the roadway.The train was traveling from ...
Published: 12/13/17

Highlands County students hurt when semi hits school bus

Four Highlands County school children and their bus driver were injured Wednesday morning when their school bus was struck by a semitrailer truck, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place just before 8 a.m. on U.S. 27 and Lake Pla...
Published: 12/13/17

Woman, 54, killed while walking across U.S. 19 in Hudson

HUDSON — A 54-year-old woman was struck and killed by a car while crossing U.S. 19 on Tuesday evening, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place at about 6:10 p.m.Patricia Lynn Pla was walking east across northbound U.S. 19 near Ba...
Published: 12/13/17