Board agrees to extend downtown police foot patrol
The foot patrol program started by Cape Coral Police Officer Jerry Moll received an 6-month extension Tuesday night from the CRA Board of directors.
The program, which began just over six weeks ago, has apparently been met with universal praise from business owners and patrons within the district, Moll said. Now the foot patrols will stick around until at least the summer season.
Tensions between owners and the Cape Coral Police Department originally brought the program to fruition.
The program acts, in a way, as an olive branch between the different interests downtown, with officers assigned to the patrol specifically to put a face on law enforcement, to create special relationships in the CRA.
“We want businesses downtown to be successful,” said Capt. Lisa Barnes, who works with Moll on the project. “This has kind of helped to break down those walls a bit.”
Thirty-five CCPD officers are assigned the detail for the six-month duration, at a cost of $10,773.
Two officers patrol the CRA on foot during the five-hour shifts, two nights a week, and during special events like the Downtown Street Market for six-hour shifts.
The CRA board asked Moll if the number of officers could be expanded during that six-month time frame, to create ann even greater presence in the district.
But there is some concern as to whether expansion would mean foot patrol officers would perform as first responders to all situations in the district.
“I don’t like the idea of expanding this, making it the primary protection for the downtown area,” said Vice Chair Rich Greer.
Whether or not the foot patrols were deterring crime downtown was hard to know for certain, according to the Moll.
Barnes said some of the officers told her their feeling while on the street was that drug activity in the parking lots was being affected.
“It was just a feeling that was communicated by the officer,” Barnes said.
The officers on foot patrol cover roughly seven miles of territory each night, according to Moll.
They enter the bars and restaurants to make connections, even go as far as trying doors to closed businesses to make sure things are locked up tight.
Moll said 35 officers was the “bare minimum” to continue the same level of services in the CRA.
The program could expand, with officers possibly working more than just two nights a week.
Until the CRA board decides that — which it will discuss at its February meeting — the members are pleased with the in roads the program has made within the business community and with their patrons.
“We have an issue and it was easily resolved because we came together as a community and worked them out,” board member Frank Dethlefsen said.