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Police, residents tackle issues at workshop

By Staff | Jun 30, 2016

Interim Police Chief Dave Newlan liked the idea his predecessor had in regards to holding frequent meetings with residents.

But in his first meeting as the head of Cape Coral Police Department, Newlan decided to bring it to the next level by holding a workshop with the residents to find out the issues that concern them and to show the residents what they are working on.

About 30 residents came to the town hall workshop at The Westin Cape Coral while others watched the live feed on Facebook. What they got wasn’t the typical speech and Q&A session.

Instead, three easels set in the corners of the room. The residents were split into three groups, where police officers spoke about issues with traffic, general police issues and burglary. Every 10 minutes, the groups rotated.

Capts. Anthony Sizemore and Michael Torregrossa discussed the “Lock or Lose” program the city is initiating to bring to a halt the number of guns stolen from people’s cars, which last year was 20.

But other things get stolen, too, and it doesn’t have to be that way, they said.

“People sometimes forget to lock their car door or make a conscious choice. Culturally, they’re used having their door unlocked and have this false sense of security,” Sizemore said. “We’re the second safest city in the state, and that’s what keeping us from being No. 1.”

Capt. Kurt Graf and Sgt. Jon Kulko were in charge of the traffic station, where they discussed two problem areas on Southeast 47th Terrace, on Del Prado and Palm Tree boulevards, one block from Cape Coral Parkway.

“Too many people look ahead to the traffic light and forget to stop. We’ve had a lot of accidents there,” Kulko said.

They also discussed the many ways people drive distracted and that those behaviors need to change in to reduce the number of crashes the city has every year.

In the final station, interim Deputy Chief Lisa Barnes discussed a variety police issues. Among them were the staffing of 4 a.m. bar hours, a curfew for youths, bike inspections and fireworks, which are legal to sell but illegal to use.

Everyone soon came back together to discuss the findings, which Newlan said his team would look at and work on making real before the next quarterly meeting in late September.

Newlan, who continued the practice brought forth by Bart Connelley, said he thought the new format was quite successful.

“This is a new concept. We wanted to bring in our most specific issues we’re dealing with and let them know what we’re doing, give suggestions, and together come up with solutions or ideas,” Newlan said. “At the next meeting, we can bring these up and tell people where we’re at.”

Lynn Pippinger, owner of Dixie Roadhouse, loved the idea, and had a particular interest in the discussion of 4 a.m. bar hours, in which she took part in until the pilot program was discontinued this spring.

“I love they are engaging the community. They do a great job with that and the interaction is really important,” Pippinger said. “I have no doubt the partnership that blossomed during that pilot period will keep going.”

Jerry Owens had a lot of thoughts and suggestions and only wished they had more time at each station, a suggestion Newlan took to heart.

“It’s a great way to meet the officers, get to know them as people doing a job to protect us, and hopefully get a better turnout than 25 people,” Owens said. “I’m very community active. I try to make myself heard, and it’s the only way to get things out there. If nobody speaks up, things fester.”