Keeping watchful eye on Parkside

Englewood Sun (FL) – Friday, May 31, 2013

PORT CHARLOTTE — In the eyes of a 7-year-old, a neighborhood is only as good as the playground equipment at the community park and the teachers in the local school.

Dannielle Crowley used to live in Englewood, but she said she prefers her new community of Parkside , a Port Charlotte district defined by the borders of U.S. 41, Midway Boulevard and the Fordham Waterway.

Dannielle likes spending time in McGuire Park and attending her new school, Neil Armstrong Elementary.

But while Dannielle frolics in the sand and plays on the equipment at McGuire, her father Dan Crowley is concerned for her safety. He knows the community is plagued by crime, especially burglaries and thefts.

‘We have never had a problem with safety around here,’ Dan said Thursday. ‘But I’m aware that it’s an issue.’

He was glad when he noticed the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office mobile command bus stop in the McGuire Park parking lot. Every morning, at least 16 CCSO officials show up for roll call, then scatter about the Parkside community, each combating crime from a different approach.

‘The county is investing a lot in attempts to revitalize the Parkside community,’ Sheriff Bill Prummell said in a press release. ‘We will only be able to accomplish this if we address the crime and quality-of-life issues within.’

The CCSO has increased its presence as part of a special, 17-day operation dubbed Operation Parkside . It’s designed to address problems with infractions. The street crimes, traffic and patrol units are targeting drug activity, while juvenile units are making sure youths on probation are complying with their curfews, according to CCSO Lt. Brian Harrison.

According to Harrison, authorities had issued 10 criminal citations, made 30 arrests and issued 91 traffic citations since the project began May 24, through Thursday morning.

‘Some people think they have taken it too far,’ Dan said. ‘But I think it’s a good thing — especially the juvenile checks. It keeps the kids out of trouble while they are out of school.’

Harrison said since the CCSO increased its presence, the amount of burglaries and thefts has been cut in half.

‘Normally, there will be about 15 to 20 thefts and burglaries in this area just over the weekend,’ he said. ‘Once people realize we are here, we expect that number to improve even more.’

While the land units are patrolling the streets, marine and dive units are making sure the local waterways are also safe.

‘They are clearing the waterways so it’s safe for boaters and fishermen,’ Harrison said. ‘We have been pulling up debris. We even pulled up an old car.’

In addition, Harrison said, school resource officers are going to area preschools and educating children about the perils of talking to strangers and communicating with unknown people online.

CCSO deputies also are fielding complaints from residents, according to sheriff’s spokeswoman Debbie Bowe. She said the CCSO has handled more than 97 grievances from concerned citizens.

The project will conclude June 8 at McGuire Park, with a free community event scheduled that day that is designed to raise awareness of the services the Sheriff’s Office provides. Residents are encouraged to come out from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and meet members of the traffic unit, the mounted patrol, the marine unit, the SWAT team, the K-9 unit and the dive team. There also will be a bounce house and games for kids.

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