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Mayor raises concern for crime

By Lisa Neff, Islander Reporter

Bradenton Beach’s mayor is pressing for increased policing in the city’s downtown district.
Mayor Bob Bartelt discussed his concerns recently with Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale, as well as expressed them in a memo to city commissioners and city attorney Ricinda Perry.
Bartelt said he has fielded complaints about possible illegal activity — specifically illicit drug transactions — taking place on Bridge Street, a center of commercial activity in Bradenton Beach.
“It has been brought to my attention that there are some concerns and issues regarding the possibility of unlawful behavior on and around Bridge Street,” Bartelt said, adding that he talked with Speciale about protecting the health, safety and welfare of citizens, visitors and business people.
The chief and the mayor agreed to what Bartelt described as a “more pro-active” approach to policing Bridge Street, with a heightened law enforcement presence at certain hours.
Bartelt said he was confident the police department would address his concerns “in the most expeditious manner possible.”
Years ago, the Bridge Street area had a reputation for rowdiness and illegal activity, which was a catalyst in the early 1990s for the creation of a tax-increment financing district to fund improvements in the historic, downtown area.
Police in more recent years have dealt with drug dealing, vandalism and criminal mischief in the area, but authorities, business owners and residents in the area said illegal activity had greatly diminished.
“Bridge Street is a good, wholesome boutique district now,” said Katy Merman, who lives a block from Bridge Street. “But certain hours — as the bars are letting out — you see some stuff.”
Resident Hank Sears said, “I’m on Bridge Street and the pier a lot and always feel safe. But I know late at night, there can be some unsavory characters around.”

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