Sheriff’s Office working to assure Siesta Key residents it will be providing enhanced enforcement over July Fourth holiday weekend

Siesta Key Association distributes statement from Sheriff’s Office about plans

The Public Safety Building on the west end of Siesta Beach Park serves as the Sheriff’s Office Substation on the Key. Contributed photo by Jason Bartolone, than a communications officer with Sarasota County

Following the Memorial Day shooting on Siesta Key, which alarmed residents — as they pointed out during the June 2 Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting — the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has provided the organization a statement underscoring its plans for heightened enforcement activities over the July Fourth holiday weekend.

Clay Keeley, vice president of the Siesta Isles Association, told SKA President Catherine Luckner on June 2, “I don’t remember the Village ever having something like this,” referring to the shooting. He added, “July Fourth’s coming up.” Will more trouble occur, he asked.

Luckner responded that she had lived on the island since 1989, “and I never remember a single shot being fired in the Village — ever.” She added of the Memorial Day incident, “This is a single event that is an outlier for our community. … This is just not at all typical.”

Luckner then pointed out, “Because we’re famous and a very popular place to be,” crowds show up, and people with criminal intent follow crowds.

Leaders of the Sheriff’s Office Substation on the Key long have made the same observation as they have addressed SKA members.

During his June 23 budget presentation to the Sarasota County Commission, Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman talked about the fact that, while the county’s population is expected to exceed 462,000 in 2023, the number of people on Siesta and in other popular areas of the community — including some South County beaches — climbs even higher at certain times of the year. Spring break is one of those, he noted, as are major holidays.

Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman appears before the County Commission during its June 23 budget workshop. News Leader image

Hoffman told the commissioners that he and his chief deputy, Col. Brian Woodring, held a meeting earlier that week with business leaders on Siesta Key to talk about law enforcement issues on the barrier island.

Luckner indicated to The Sarasota News Leader that she was among the participants in that session.

Then, on June 26, the SKA sent out the advisory from the Sheriff’s Office about its preparations for the July Fourth period.

The statement follows:

“Our mission is to provide a safe environment for full-time Siesta Key residents, citizens traveling to, attending, and traveling back to their destinations during the Fourth of July weekend from events at Sarasota County Beaches. To provide efficient and effective law enforcement services during this holiday weekend, members of multiple bureaus of the sheriff’s office will be utilized to accomplish our mission. The Siesta Key community is experiencing large numbers of beachgoers for the weekend. Siesta Key plans to host fireworks displays this year at or near 948 Beach Rd. [That is the address of Siesta Public Beach, which Sarasota County owns and operates.] Sarasota County Beaches will experience a large amount of vehicular and pedestrian traffic throughout the weekend mainly during the daytime hours. In order to provide the best quality of life for beachgoers, firework observers, and full-time residents of Siesta Key, we will have zero tolerance for specific crimes, to include, underage possession of alcohol, disorderly conduct, glass on the beach, affrays, disorderly intoxication, and all weapons crimes [emphasis in the statement].

“The Siesta Key operation will be a three-day plan, July 2nd-July 4th, that will involve a multitude of personnel from different sections and units, equipment, and resources. There will be daily briefings held to discuss current issues, manpower concerns, trends and debrief from the prior days events. ”

“ALL Siesta Key bars and convenience stores were visited by a Sheriff deputy and advised ‘a ZERO tolerance’ is in effect for under age drinking [emphasis again in the statement]. Minors will be cited and parents contacted to pick them up. Extra law enforcement will be on duty for DUIs.”