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Date of Issue: August 23, 2007

Airborne sneaks just a prank, police say

Sneaks for kids or gangs?
At least six incidents of tennis shoes wrapped around electrical lines were reported in Anna Maria and Holmes Beach last week. While on the mainland the sneakers could be considered a sign of gang activity, Island law enforcement officials say its nothing more than a kids' prank. These shoes were in the 9900 block of Gulf Drive in Anna Maria. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Motorists traveling along Gulf Drive last week who happened to glance up might have been surprised to see pairs of sneakers wrapped around electrical lines crossing over the road in a number of locations.

In fact, the Holmes Beach Police Department reported five such incidents, while in Anna Maria, Sgt. John Kenney of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office substation said he had one report. None have been observed in Bradenton Beach, according to police Chief Sam Speciale.

“It’s nothing more than a kids’ prank,” said Kenney, dismissing any notion that it’s a sign of gang activity on the Island.

He did note that a pair of shoes wrapped by its shoestrings around an electric wire used to denote a gang’s territory, but that was years ago. There are no indications of gang activity on the Island. Kenney also refuted a suggestion that the hanging shoes were a signal that drugs could be purchased in the area.

“We would know if that was happening,” he said emphatically. “There’s no location in Anna Maria where people are going to buy drugs,” Kenney stressed, adding that the tennis shoe symbol is just some kids trying to imitate gangs.

In Holmes Beach, Lt. Dale Stephenson of the HBPD agreed.

He’s investigated the incidents and said he spoke about the hanging sneakers with the MCSO’s gang unit. He indicated this was a  “copy-cat” event.

Other than the tennis shoe incidents, there are no signs of gang activity in Holmes Beach, he emphasized.