Siesta Key Village Association President Russell Matthes agreed with members’ suggestions June 5 that the organization should seek a special meeting with representatives of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office’s Community Policing Station in the Village to talk about complaints regarding recent law enforcement actions.
Matthes said he would contact Sgt. Scott Osborne, leader of the station, to determine when the meeting could be held.
Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce President Mark Smith suggested Matthes also make sure Sheriff Tom Knight was aware of the effort.
In his report during the June 5 SKVA meeting, Matthes pointed out that he recently had seen deputies pulling over taxi drivers to cite them “for picking people up in the Village by pulling over on the side of the road, in the right of way.”
The taxis might be hindering traffic when they make such stops, Matthes said, but the deputies’ actions were “impeding cab drivers from coming out here,” and that was leading to more patrons of Siesta Village businesses feeling they had to drive their own vehicles onto the key.
“I definitely want to reach out to the deputies and ask them or Sgt. Osborne … what’s spawned this,” Matthes said of the traffic stops.
Rahmi Nehme, part owner of Blasé Café, said he felt valet parking services in the Village were hindering traffic as well.
When he had observed deputies pulling over taxis, Nehme added, “there was no traffic behind [them]. … I think it was more like a crackdown on taxi cab drivers on a very, very busy weekend.”
Glenn Cappetta, owner of Sun Ride Pedicabs, said he felt the problem was not with deputies who work regularly on Siesta Key but with law enforcement officers the Sheriff’s Office employed from other communities, including Venice and Bradenton, to work on weekends and nights. They do not know the island’s locals, he said.
“I’m really concerned about the treatment of the locals by these outside cops,” Capetta added.
Troy Syprett, co-owner of the Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar, said he believed some organizations on the island, such as the Siesta Key Association, wanted a stronger law enforcement presence in Siesta Village.
“I don’t think that’s true at all, Troy,” replied Peter van Roekens, vice president of the SKA.
“We wanted [deputies] to measure noise [levels],” van Roekens said, “and that wasn’t happening. … That’s what our concern was.”
Matthes pointed out that he attends SKA meetings, “and there isn’t a whole focus on ‘We need … control out here.’ I don’t hear that.”
Matthes concurred with van Roekens: “I hear concern about noise.”
“This year has been our busiest season,” Nehme said, “and we do need Sheriff’s Department presence [in the Village].”
“Everything’s a balance in this world,” Matthes said. “We definitely want the [law enforcement] presence out here.”
Smith suggested Matthes request a discussion with Sheriff’s Office personnel, so SKVA members could “just sit and talk about where we’re coming from here.”
When Syprett suggested Matthes ask Osborne and other deputies to address the issue during the SKVA’s July 3 meeting, Smith said, “It seems to me … we need to do it sooner rather than later.”
SKVA members could meet with Osborne and other deputies at the Community Policing Station on Ocean Boulevard, Smith said, if that was more convenient for them.
“We will get in contact with Sgt. Osborne,” Matthes said.