WHAT IS A CSO?
Many people emailed me after the May meeting saying they thought the sergeant was rude and at least one is writing directly to the mayor about it. But a few others are concerned that we are “coming on too strong” or “alienating the police.”
As I said in the recent Friday Bulletin, we have no problem with the response officers and more importantly, whatever differences we have with the CSO unit, the response relationship will not be affected, nor has it been. We can call the non-emergency number and get the same level of responsiveness we’ve always received.
Some of us have had positive interactions with the CSOs but I have seen them at Skyway Marina District meetings where they have infuriated leaders of other neighborhoods with their lack of knowledge and cooperation. They do not seem to know what their job is, and this has created huge problems here and in other neighborhoods. This is due to nothing less than poor leadership. My guess is that they are receiving mixed signals. After our March meeting, when we called out a CSO for not responding properly to a request for a knock’n’talk, he called the complainant the next day and then made another attempt to contact the troublesome house. Now, at our May meeting, we are told there will be no knock’n’talks. These poor cops, some of them very young, are walking on shifting sand.
You may have heard the sergeant say that they will not knock on the door of a house where there’s a problem based purely on a neighbor’s complaint, and you may have heard a resident ask whether this was a problem when Dennis was here. My answer was that this is only a problem retroactively, because not only did Dennis knock on doors when there were frequent, multiple complaints about a house, he often took his sergeant with him! Now suddenly we are told “we aren’t going to do this.”
The problem with abandoning the knock’n’talk solution is that it leaves an enormous hole when we have a house with numerous, ongoing, noncriminal but very disturbing activity. We had 3 of these, right now we’re down to 2, but in at least one case a neighbor is considering moving because the response officers cannot deal with the activity and the CSOs, whose mission is to “address ongoing neighborhood issues,” won’t.
You also heard the sergeant say they would go to a house only if there is crime. That’s what the response officers do… and if that’s the case, then what are the CSO’s here for?
None of this is going on in other districts; we are the only one suffering from this bad attitude on the part of the sergeant. I spoke with a long-standing CSO in District II a couple of weeks ago and he was stunned to hear what we’ve been deprived of. Someone told me the other day they ran into a retired police officer they hadn’t seen for a while and asked if he knew Patty Houston. He rolled his eyes. I, and the leaders of several other neighborhoods, believe that she is symbolic of a police department that is out of control in many ways and that now is the time to get the mayor to focus on the problem before it gets worse. Holloway is a nice guy but there is growing sense that he is in over his head.
I hear the concerns about not alienating the police and in general I agree…but when you have someone consciously and deliberately abusing the system, without fear of correction, it’s sort of like the camel’s nose under the tent flap… who else will look at this and decide they can ride roughshod over the needs of the citizens?
This is definitely a sticky situation. But in the end, if the public does not cry out against abuse in its police force… well, look at what’s going on in this country with black citizens being beaten and even assassinated by out-of-control cops. Dennis Kelly’s removal does not rise to the level of this brutality, of course, but it’s all part of a pattern of abuse, by whites and blacks, males and females, under color of the uniform.
Most of us believe that we have sent the necessary message to the mayor and the PD and now we sit back, shut up and wait. There is a very good chance we are stuck in this situation under Houston retires in a couple of years and if that’s the case, we will make the best of it. But most of us believe it’s important to at least try to rectify an obvious case of abuse of power because everything we have seen and heard confirms that this was not an effort to improve things but just one woman’s personal vendetta.
OFFICER DENNIS KELLY
Many of the people at the March 16th meeting were not aware that Officer Kelly had been removed from this area as a District I Community Service Officer and put back “on the street” in District II. What happened at that meeting probably came as a surprise to much of our membership, so in the interest of understanding the in’s and out’s, here is an editorial. What follows is my own view of this situation and does not necessarily reflect the feelings and opinions of the Lakewood board.
What we witnessed at the March 16th meeting was another example of the SPPD’s long practice of talking about “community cooperation” and doing its best to avoid it. The brass and uniforms who showed up at our March meeting were, predictably, out of touch with what goes on down here in the trenches. They were therefore unprepared for the depth of feeling and intensity surrounding the sudden, inexplicable and unjustified removal of Officer Kelly, whose work in our neighborhood and the others all around us (Coquina Key, Bahama Shores, Lakewood Terrace, Greater Pinellas, Broadwater and Bayway Isles) has led to the rebirth of some dying organizations, the renewed enthusiasm of others, greatly enhanced citizen awareness of crime prevention, solutions to problems no one else could or would fix, and a relentless focus on the ‘small stuff’ that if controlled can prevent larger problems. In short, he was the best thing that had happened to us in years and was universally admired and respected.
We do not know what burr his new sergeant, Patricia Houston, had under her saddle but it was obvious to many of us from the moment she became his boss that she was determined to get rid of him. The fact that he was transferred so far north of here is an indication of her hostility toward him. (A previous district major once told me that it is “nearly impossible’ to transfer uniformed officers between districts.) Was he too good at his job? Did he make others look bad? Was she jealous of the attention and praise? Did she just plain not like him? Whatever the reason, she and her superior, Major Matt McKinney, District I Commander, seriously underestimated this area’s attitude toward Kelly, came to our meeting prepared to snow us with lies and innuendo, and were surprised to find that Lakewood does not sit idly by while the PD rains nonsense down on us.
Among the more ludicrous statements made by both the major and the sergeant:
- In perhaps the most shameful event of the evening, this group, led by Major McKinney, got up to the podium and began talking about the CSO program as though there were no elephant the room. Finally, one resident called out, WHERE IS OFFICER KELLY? The major began to mumble about Kelly having moved on but immediately the resentment began to boil over.
- Houston evaluated Dennis and said she gave him a good evaluation. Since she’s only been in that position for about 2 months, how does this qualify her to rate his performance? And if she cared to find out how he performs, shouldn’t she have come to at least one of the neighborhood meetings he supported, to see him in action? Never happened.
- In an effort to convince us that this move was a good one for Kelly, Houston said that officers need to be constantly moving from job to job, always growing in the job and learning new areas. She also announced that she’s been in the CSO area for 8 years. So much for growth and new experiences.
- Three times these folks were asked, “Did Officer Kelly ASK to be transferred,” and each time the answer was, “Officer Kelly expressed an interest in moving on.” (There is some evidence that the department has not get gotten its act together to present one consistent explanation for Kelly’s removal. The reason given depends on whom you ask.)
- Houston said Officer Kelly asked to be transferred to burglary (she failed to mention this was after he was removed from here) but that as a CSO he did not have the necessary field experience to be able to do investigative work. Officer Kelly was on the force in Cleveland for years before he came here. How many years do you need on the street before you know how to follow up on a burglary?
- Police officers are never seen at our meetings “because they are not invited.” Officer Stanley Maybell, one of the CSO officers present, has lived here for 10 years but has never come to a meeting. He was waiting for an invitation? Really?
- “This is not about Officer Kelly.” That statement got a loud chorus of YES IT IS.
- The major spoke briefly about crime, reminding us to lock our car doors and keep garage doors closed… as though this were news to us. They seemed to have no idea what Kelly has been saying and doing here these many months. But then again, how would they know?
At the end of this embarrassing display, our new CSO, Derrick Nelson, got up to give us the stats. Flat voice, almost inaudible, totally uninspired – he might as well have been reading the phone book. Compared to the fire and brimstone Kelly always gave us, this was dull and uninteresting in the extreme.
The list of the sort of problems we have here that Officer Kelly used to deal with and which will undoubtedly be far more difficult to control under this new system include:
Disputes between neighbors
Rental properties with multiple problems
Yard and tree-line parking
Badly behaved children
People who let their dogs run loose
Abuse of and trespass on the golf course (Kelly worked closely with the club)
We do not yet know whether we will be able to get Dennis back here – all the neighborhoods mentioned above are combining in that effort. Meanwhile we continue to test this new arrangement to see if the major’s promise that we are going to be getting the PD’s “best service” has any validity. It is a bad omen that an attempt to get Officer Nelson’s cell phone so that we could reach him for immediate needs resulted in his providing us with the CSO audix line (which is what we called him on in the first place), an answering machine that is checked for messages only once a day. (We do have his email but do not know whether he accesses it, how often, and from where — and he has not been forthcoming with information.)
So far, it looks a lot like what we had B.D. – Before Dennis.
- Judy Ellis
Several businesses in the area have joined us in a program to increase our Association membership and keep shopping local. The list of these businesses and what they offer is available on this site under Sponsors. Visit it now and then because it will be updated from time to time. Note that you must be a paid, current member with a Lakewood membership card to take advantage of these discounts. Notify one of the Association officers if you wish to pick up your membership card; you will need it to show the store when you ask for your discount.
Remember to bring non-perishable food for the Free Clinic’s Food Bank.
Meetings of the Association are held 5 times a year, in January, March, May, September and November, usually on the 3rd Wednesday, at the St. Petersburg Country Club, beginning at 7:00 p.m.
Save the Date – Our Next Meeting
May 18, 7 p.m. at the Country Club.
Upcoming Meeting Dates – 2016
September 21 and November 16
If you have a book to share, or want to borrow one, there is a neighborhood ‘library’ in a display box at the curb at 1912 Bonita Way South. Bring a book, take a book, pass the books around.
Fishing in the ponds – what’s the problem?
Here is an explanation that will allow Lakewoodians to better understand the fishing situation and enable us to explain it to outsiders who want to fish here.
The bottom line is that it is in the interest of everyone who lives here to ensure that the Country Club and the golf course continue to thrive. Without the golf course, we are just another St Pete neighborhood. All that open space, all that greenery and blue sky, all that wildlife is what sets us apart and makes us special. It doesn’t matter whether you play golf or even belong to the Club – the value of your home depends in large part on the health of the golf course.
Trespass. Most of the ponds are in areas that belong to the Country Club so that anyone wanting to fish in them has to trespass over Club property. No one who is not a member of the Country Club has any business on the course. Very often after one person begins fishing an area, others join in and create groups large enough to become a real hazard for the golfers. Little children are often left to wander around dangerously close to the water – and there isn’t a single pond on this course that doesn’t have at least one resident alligator.
Danger. A golf ball travels 90 mph and does considerable damage when it makes contact with a human head. Golfers often cannot see what’s ahead of them and have to trust that no one is foolish enough to be sitting in their path.
Fish. The fish are put in the ponds and paid for by the Club to keep down the alga. Golfers do not want to play among scummy ponds that smell. The fish are therefore not up for public grabs. Moreover, the fish are full of pesticides and fertilizer and are suitable for ingestion only by birds (who mercifully don’t seem to be affected, if the success of our osprey nests is any indication).
Intrusion. Many of the people who want to fish here do not understand the protocols and rules governing golf courses. They pull their cars up onto the easement (which is illegal) and then walk right into the path of golfers preparing to swing.
Parking and Litter. Along with a lack of knowledge about proper behavior, those wanting to fish often park illegally and leave behind dead or dying fish, litter, and/or beer bottles. In some areas, people pulling their cars up on the rights of way – also illegal – have destroyed the grass and turned the area into a sand lot. Someone has to pay to fix that.
Cast nets. A lot of fishing folk prefer cast nets, which quickly get them a lot of fish to sell for bait. Unfortunately, cast nets are illegal everywhere in this city except Lake Maggiore. And again, that ‘bait’ is really stocked fish owned by the Club so this is nothing more or less than stealing.
There are people, such as the woman who visited our meeting on January 20th, who believe that if they are sitting on a city right-of-way, they are on public property and can therefore fish. They can in fact stay on that public property all day long… but they cannot fish. Once they put that rod in the water, they are trespassing.
What you can do
If you see someone fishing in one of the course’s ponds (and the only one that isn’t Club property is Summit Lake, the entire rim of which is privately owned by residents), you can point out that they are on private property politely ask them to leave. This rarely works. You can then let them know the police are being called and move away. Or call the club at 867-2111 during business hours (ask for the pro shop or the manager), or call the police non-emergency number at 893-7780, or notify the Association president at 460-1586.
2016 SANITATION SCHEDULE
The following Monday pick-ups will be on Tuesday:
MLK Jr. Day, Jan. 19, Presidents’ Day, February 16, Memorial Day, May 31, Independence Day, July 5, Labor Day, September 6, and Christmas day, December 27.
The following Thursday pick-ups will move to Wednesday:
Veteran’s Day, November 10, and Thanksgiving Day, November 23.
The following recycle days will move from Tuesday to Wednesday:
MLK Jr. Day, January 20, Presidents’ Day, February 17, Memorial Day, June 1, Independence Day, July 6, Labor Day, September 7, Christmas day, December 28.
The sales folks from Vivint made a brief re-appearance here in March but upon being contacted, the company’s HQ admitted that the local office had been advised to stay out of Lakewood. The sales people were quickly pulled and have not been seen since. You are urged to let someone on the board know if you find a Vivint sales person at your door.
NEW CITY ORDINANCE REGARDING SOLICITATION
Enforcement of the new solicitation ordinance is going to be essentially a police matter, since Codes will not be around when someone rings your doorbell. This is going to make enforcement somewhat tricky.
We have to bear in mind that while the day-to-day annoyances are a problem, the bigger picture is the need to get the permits pulled or rejected for companies like Vivint that come in here and consistently ignore the rules. If the word gets out that you can forfeit your permit in this city for breaking our law, we will see a lot less of this.
With that in mind, here’s what we recommend:
If you have a NO SOLICITING sign (and we urge you to hop over to Ace Hardware and get one) and a commercial vendor rings your doorbell, do one or all of the following:
- Call out “Do you see that sign? We’re calling the police.” Then call 893-7780 and report the person – male, so tall, wearing this shirt and those pants, etc. – and your address. If you see the person walking way, try to determine which way he’s going and tell that to the PD. It’s important that the PD gets involved so that there is a record of the problem.
- Take your cell phone camera to the door, open the door, say smile, take the picture, close the door. Then do #1, above. We recommend you try to see what’s out there before you open the door – a permitted solicitor will be wearing a photo ID. Be cautious.
- If you do not have a sign and a solicitor manages to get you to the door and then refuses to show you his ID, refuses to leave or becomes abusive, call 893-7780 and report as above in #1.
- Call the police any time a solicitor refuses to identify the company he’s with or becomes evasive or shifty. Remember that with Vivint, one of their many big lies was that they are from your home security provider and are there for an ‘upgrade.’
- Keep a log of when a solicitor did any of these illegal acts because we may have to back up our complaints if and when the City writes up one of these folks and they end up in court. Note the date and time and the offense – no solicit sign, refusal to leave, threats, intimidation, obvious lies (we had one household last spring who was told they needed an update and they didn’t even have a system!). This will become part of the book the city will use if they decide to revoke a permit or not grant one.
- The city cannot be the plaintiff in a court case for this sort of thing – it’s going to require one or more of us going into court and testifying as to which part or parts of the ordinance were violated. Most of us don’t want to do this but it will take only 1 or 2 of us to get a company fined and then the word goes out – remember, the long-range goal is to send a message back to places like Vivint that they can’t come in here and prey on us. We don’t want to give the judge an excuse for throwing the case out of court.
- 6. Never hesitate to call my cell, 460-1586, and let me know there’s someone breaking the law here because if it’s during regular daytime hours (and sometimes even on weekends), I can often get some immediate attention.
Unwanted literature, flyers, posters, door-hangers: Keep what’s left at your door and turn it in to me – the new law also prohibits this stuff and this is evidence that someone has ignored your NO SOLICITING sign. If you leave it at my door (!), be sure to note on it where it was left (address) and the date. Realtors, pizza places, solar energy companies, so-called “energy auditors” – they are not allowed to do this if you have a sign. The Association will notify the offending company that they have broken the law and strongly suggest they not do it again.
This law makes no changes to the way we handle unpermitted solicitation, but while we’re on the subject, here’s a review of what we see and what we do:
Kirby Vacuums – they use lies and deception to get into your house
Window cleaners – they really want to get a good look inside your house to see what they want to steal at a later date
Driveway repairs – the first time it rains, the “asphalt” you paid for goes into the storm water system
Magazine subscriptions for college students – they get the money, you get no magazines
Meat from a wagon – Some of these are licensed and we know people who have bought from them and found the meat of good quality. It’s your call.
Fish from a wagon – ditto
Mrs. Pump It Off – young teens with a squirt bottle full of ‘magic liquid.’ It’s ordinary household cleaner; they are licensed but they hide their badges so you can’t see their names. Mrs. Pump It Off is being pursued by the attorneys general of several states.
Tree trimming – there are several very good services that do solicit (although most without a permit) but there are a lot of others that know nothing about trees and sometimes the tree doesn’t survive. If you need a tree trimmed, contact the Association – we have a reliable source.
Any time you have an unpermitted solicitor, call that 893-7780 number and ask for an officer to run them out of here. It’s a low priority call but if an officer can get loose, he’ll oblige. Same rule about calling my cell phone –let me know right away who’s been at your door, what they look like and which way they went.
The new law does not apply to charities, non-profits and religious groups, who may ring your bell despite a NO SOLICITING sign. Very few of these still go door to door – the Girl Scouts are at the malls, and others are now using the internet to raise funds. (One of those excepted is “vendors of milk products.” When is the last time you saw a milkman?) We don’t want to single out any particular group, but we heard from a lot of people about “keeping the religious away,” so we will pass this on: If you don’t want the Jehovah’s Witnesses at your door, call the Kingdom Hall on 31st Street and asked to be “put in the book.” The Witnesses carry that book with them so they know which houses not to approach. It works. 866-0710
There is a list of exempt groups in the new law but the city is not quite happy with it and some time in the near future they will be revising that. In the meantime, the law goes into effect on July 16, as is, and we encourage everyone in Lakewood to do what they can to support and enforce it. If enough of us raise a stink, we can severely curtail the amount of “scamming” that goes on here.
Ace Hardware on 34th Street South, a Lakewood sponsor, is carrying a supply of two different sizes/types of signs. We encourage you to patronize them — Lakewood is always supportive of local businesses.