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Police: Crime rates plummet on Sanibel

By Staff | Feb 11, 2015

In Sanibel Police Chief William Tomlinson’s 2014 Police Department Crime/Call Statistics presentation to the Sanibel City Council Tuesday, Feb. 3, crime on the island fell by approximately 40-percent.

In Tomlinson’s report, the Federal reportable crimes (UCR) decreased approximately by 40-percent from 210 in 2013 to 125 in 2014. Overall, there was a 50-percent decrease in the report of thefts, a 40-percent decrease in burglaries and a 75-percent decrease in vehicle theft.

“Some of the reason was due to the department being understaffed for a period of time,” Chief Tomlinson said.

But Tomlinson did credit the reduction in crime on better community awareness and participation.

There was a a bump in assaults, though, going from three in 2013 to 17 in 2014.

“There wasn’t any trend of the assaults being in a certain location and there wasn’t any reoccurring assaults from certain individuals,” Chief Tomlinson added.

All non-UCR reported crimes such as trespassing, drug violations, DUI, criminal traffic violations, criminal mischief, harassment, city ordinance violations and criminal citations also went down from 1,300 in 2013 to 1,031 in 2014.

There also were 255 reported accidents in 2013, with 197 reported in 2014.

DUI arrests have been trending higher the last three years, from five in 2012, to nine in 2013 and 16 in 2014.

A report was given by the Public Works’ Keith Williams to the City Council. In a memorandum by City Manager Judie Zimomra to the City Council, statistics were cited on Causeway counts in October and November of 2014.

The October 2014 total vehicles increased by 11,146 to 245,090 (a 4.76-percent increase). The highest recorded traffic for October was in 2002, when 262,318 vehicles crossed the Causeway.

The November 2014 count increased by 2,563 to a total of 254,257 vehicles (a 1.01-percent increase from 2013). The highest recorded in the month of November was 2,000 when 284,445 vehicles passed over.

In other City Council business from its Feb. 3, meeting:

* The Dark Skies ordinance had its first reading, with no public comment included. The second reading is potentially scheduled for the March meeting.

* There was a report and update given by Williams and Director of Natural Resources James Evans on the water quality issue. Evans cited Lake Okeechobee current measurement is 14.66 feet deep, which a good number.

“It’s been a wetter than normal dry season,” Evans said. “But there still is good clarity to the water, as of now. Also, there have been no reports of red tide in the area.”

It was also mentioned Governor Rick Scott’s announcement of funding the restoration of the Everglades project in the amount of $5 billion over the next 20 years.

* The continued discussion of the Scope of Services for the shared use bike path regarding markings and signage was had. A revised scope was introduced by Williams.

Councilman Mick Denham questioned if the project was needed.

“We already have too many signs on the island and we have a very low accident rate on the bike paths,” Denham said. “Do we even need to do this?”

Vice Mayor Doug Congress said there is a need for bike safety on the island, since it is such a prevalent activity by many people.

“We need to get an expert on bike path safety at a reasonable cost and ask for suggestions,” Congress added.

“Let’s get three to four experts on a short list and enlist competitive bids and go from there,” Mayor Ruane said.

The motion to approve the scope of work, with an addition of a timeline in it, passed by a 5-0 vote.

* There has been monitoring done out at Blind Pass, across from the Lazy Flamingo parking lot, of the eroding shoreline. Williams recommended for the City to obtain a field permit and truck in 600 cubic yards of sand to help the area.

“It’s not an emergency, yet,” Williams said. “But soon, the vegetation in that area will be affected if nothing is done.”

The City Council agreed with Williams’ recommendation and passed the motion with a 5-0 vote.

* The traffic consultant company which conducted the Dunes traffic study, offered to install speed and volume tubes in the Dunes at no cost.

Volume tubes measure speed of vehicles and the amount of vehicles using the Dunes’ roads.

It was decided to not take the offer at this time, due to the noise which is caused by vehicles running over the tubes.

* The Farmer’s Market lease with the city expires April 20. The City Council is happy with how the market is run and will offer a five-year lease, with City Manager Judie Zimomra handling the process.

* The annual job evaluation procedure for Zimomra and Cuyler will be conducted by Mayor Ruane and will need to be done 60 days after the first of the year.

* A staff report on the loss of area Eastern Screech Owls noted that 35 have been killed in the last 2.5 years after getting hit by a car. There have been 11 killed since this past October.

The issue of the Eastern Screech Owls depletion will be put on the March agenda.