Foot patrols in downtown Cape working, officials say
Halfway through the trial run of an experimental police foot patrol program, Community Redevelopment Agency officials are thinking the experiment could be around for awhile.
CRA board members awarded a slight extension to the program during their meeting Tuesday night, stretching the life of the fledgling foot patrols until their next meeting to be held Jan. 19.
The program was set to expire Jan. 8, but now the program can live on until the board decides what to do next.
“All the pilot programs we’re coming up with now are going to be adjusted, and get better as time goes on,” said Board member Frank Dethlefsen.
The exact nature of the program’s extension in January, permanent of otherwise, has yet to be discussed, but all CRA board members were pleased with the efforts thus far.
Cape Coral police officer and community liaison Jerry Moll said that since the project started just under a month ago, officers participating in the program have made 150 citizen contacts and 12 business contacts, meaning they’ve met face to face and had personal contact with patrons and owners.
He also said the officers were responsible for a felony drug arrest, and that they physically check business doors in the CRA district.
Moll said there has been some criticism of the project – participating officers receive $30 an hour for five hours of work, two night a week – but at the core of the program is making people feel safe while in the CRA, while fostering a positive relationship between business owners and the Cape Coral Police Department.
“Does crime prevention work? How do you measure it? How do you know?” Moll said he’s often asked. “But, so far it seems to be working.”
Instead of merely extending the program from month to month, board Vice-Chairman Don Heisler said the program could be extended indefinitely, depending on whether the city would support that type of permanent patrol.
“I think people will get comfortable knowing that police officers are the street,” Heisler said. “But we need to look at where were going and not just renewing it every couple of weeks.”
So far the program has cost just under $5,000. The board originally awarded $5,200 for the project.
It’s unknown what the potential cost of extending the program indefinitely could be.
The program has gone some way to repair relationships between Cape Coral police and business owners in the CRA, some of whom have questioned the way the department has positioned its DUI checks.
“I’ve heard nothing but positive remarks from all the people I’ve talked to,” said Frank Evans, owner of Leapin Lizard. “And I think the Cape Coral police are all doing what they can to help the businesses downtown.”