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Venues insist police presence bad for business

By Staff | Apr 22, 2009

Several downtown business owners and residents decried the heightened visibility of police in the area Tuesday during a Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency meeting, saying the police presence scares off customers and threatens to cut off business activity.
Mary Ann Evans, owner of Leapin’ Lizards, said a DUI checkpoint in March on Cape Coral Parkway less than one mile from her establishment fended off potential customers during a potentially busy weekend.
“We’re an entertainment district. They come down to enjoy business and enjoy the evening, and that was not a good event,” she said.
Other residents said Cape police officers target the downtown area.
“Officers waiting for people to come out of a bar, it’s not good, it’s not good for the city,” said Mike Desmond, a four-year Cape resident.
Desmond, who identified himself as a retired law enforcement officer, said a change is needed to the Cape Coral Police Department’s approach.
“I’ve done DUI checkpoints in my career. I know how they work. The way I feel, CCPD is going about it the wrong way,” he said.
John Jacobsen, executive director of the CRA, is trying to find an amicable solution for all parties. A meeting was held by the CRA last week to try and get Cape police and business owners on the same page, but it went unattended by police.
Jacobsen suggested the CRA join the Responsible Hospitality Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes legal and social awareness programs to create safer and vibrant places to socialize, according to its Web site, www.hospitalityweb.org.
A CRA representative will attend the organization’s April 30 meeting in Tampa to try to develop a solution.
Jacobsen and other CRA members stressed that they are not against the enforcement of DUI laws and arrests downtown, and want to work with police to find an answer that satisfies commerce and the law.
“The police do not mean to single out a business or hurt a particular industry, but it may be an unintended consequence,” he said.
CRA boardmember Don Heisler said he does not mind the CCPD’s reputation in the area.
“I still think it’s good that we have a police force in Cape Coral that’s known for being a police force,” he said.