Fort Myers PD working to improve safety, trust within community

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Jackie Winchester
Fort Myers Police Department headquarters. (Credit: WINK News)
Fort Myers Police Department Headquarters. Credit: WINK News.

The Fort Myers Police Department said it’s targeting areas and trying to prevent crime before it happens, something the city said has reduced violent crime by 51%.

The city is now focusing on how much trust and satisfaction people have with the police department.

Chief Derrick Diggs said the numbers prove the plan to keep people safe in the city is working. Property crime is down 21% in the last five years while violent crimes dropped by 51%.

“The city is safer today than it’s been in the previous four years,” Diggs said.

Why? Under his direction, the agency is laser-focused on data-driven crime prevention. They follow the numbers and put resources in place to respond. An expert said the data show .3% of the population is responsible for nearly two-thirds of the city’s homicides and shootings.

“You are not going into an area doing a sweeping, a crackdown, and making a bunch of arrests,” said Daniel Gerard with the University of Cincinnati Focused Improvement research group.

“The arrests that they do make are focused on the right people in the right places in order to prevent crime.”

Getting crime under control is just the start; building trust in the community is the critical next step.

“We also have to make sure that we do the things that we need to do to break down the barriers in our marginal communities. We still have to get their support,” Diggs said.

He wants the community to tell him what they think and where his department stands, so the city will work on a questionnaire to survey residents on their experiences, trust, and satisfaction levels with law enforcement.

“We need to hear from the community at large, whether good or bad,” said Councilman Johnny Streets, Ward 2.

“They have to not send that out randomly. They need to select places and people to send that out,” said James Muwakkil, president of the Lee County NAACP.

To that end, Muwakkil said Fort Myers PD should connect with his organization and with pastors of Black churches to ensure communities of color get the survey and fill it out honestly.

The city manager is putting the survey together, and the police department will not be involved with its distribution.

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