Wednesday, January 14, 2015

CCSO East Naples COPS Unit Honored With National Award

In 2004, Bayshore Drive in East Naples was a haven for criminals, drugs and homeless people.

A local task force, led by the Collier County Sheriff’s Office’s East Naples Community Oriented Policing (COPS) Unit, was created and began tackling the myriad problems in the area known as the Bayshore Triangle - Bayshore Drive bounded by U.S. 41 East and Thomasson Drive. Problems also included trash in the streets, street light repairs and abandoned buildings.

The task force was successful in taking a community riddled with crime and disorder and transforming it into a thriving and healthy community.

The East Naples COPS Unit was recently named the recipient of the 2014 L. Anthony Sutin Civic Imagination Award for this collaborative effort that resulted in the successful revival of Bayshore Drive.

The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services  gives the award annually to honor creative, successful and forward-thinking collaborations between local law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.

Cpl. Michael Nelson and Cpl. Robert Reu who started the project, along with fellow COPS deputies Sylee Gibson, Angela Ison, James Spartz, and William Pschigoda were joined by the Bayshore/Gateway Triangle Community Redevelopment Agency Operations Manager Jean Jourdan as this year’s honorees.

“The Bayshore Triangle Project has truly optimized the community policing principles by improving the quality of life and increasing civic engagement through the creation of innovative partnerships and problem-solving strategies,’’ said COPS Office Director Ronald L. Davis in a press release announcing the award. “Congratulations to the Bayshore Triangle Project for their exemplary work and dedication to the community.”

Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk has long been a proponent of community-oriented policing. The success of this project is proof community policing works, the sheriff said.

“This collaborative effort is an example of community policing at its finest,” Sheriff Rambosk said.

Calls for law enforcement services are down nearly 50 percent, as a direct result of the local community working together with deputies, code enforcement officers and other local agencies. Commercial and residential growth is on the rise. Eleven new businesses have opened their doors since the project began. Several apartment buildings have been converted to condominiums. There has been expansion done to the Naples Botanical Gardens and Bayview Park. Construction on two new housing developments is underway. The proactive redevelopment of the community has led to the area being designated an arts district.

“The visible prostitutes and drug dealers disappeared and were replaced with young joggers and mothers pushing strollers with children,” said Steve Sherman, a retired police officer who lives off Bayshore Drive.

Jourdan, the CRA operations manager, said the reduction in crime was made possible by deputies providing local government agencies with statistics on where calls for service and complaints were coming from. This allowed the agencies to target those areas. For example, the agencies were able to identify slumlords and offer them fair market value for their properties, which led to them leaving the area.

“The statistics tell it all,” Jourdan said. “The crime reduction has been amazing and we couldn’t have done it without this partnership.”

The partnership has continued to grow and strengthen since its inception. In addition, the ideas and strategies that were utilized in this project have now been used in other areas of East Naples and Collier County in order to promote community growth, build partnerships and break down the barriers between law enforcement and the public.      

The L. Anthony Sutin Civic Imagination Award is named in memory of Tony Sutin, who served as a founder and deputy director of the COPS Office from its creation in 1994 until 1996. A distinguished graduate from Harvard Law School and former partner of the law firm Hogan & Hartson in Washington, D.C., Sutin was widely known and respected for his tremendous commitment to service and community. It is with great admiration and respect for Sutin’s many contributions to the COPS Office and the principles of community policing that the COPS Office names this award in his memory, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services website.