Lee County residents: Less talk, more action in stopping dangerous drivers

Reporter: Gail Levy Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

Lee County residents are demanding answers on how deputies will deal with dangerous drivers because the safety of their communities is at stake.

A double shooting during what deputies call a street race has stirred up concern in Lehigh Acres. That shooting triggered Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno to say he’s had it with the street crime in the county and has changed the pursuit policy as a result.

Marceno says he’s pulling out all the toys, helicopters, drones, and stop sticks, to stop street racers.

The community is tired of all the talk, though, and wants action now.

WINK News has reached out to the sheriff’s office to speak with Sheriff Marceno, and for a second straight day, the sheriff and his public information officers have refused to talk to us or to give to me copies of the old and new pursuit policies.

This week, Marceno posted this on Facebook. “I have amended our pursuit policy effective immediately. What that means is that we immediately are utilizing our helicopter, stop sticks, drones, barricades, all hands on deck, everything we have to make certain that we win.”

We’ve seen LCSO post on Facebook “winning” many times.

“Zero tolerance is zero tolerance. I have promised you since day one,’ said Marceno in a Facebook video.

But what does that mean? WINK News has asked the sheriff’s office for copies of its old pursuit policy and the new one so we could give you specifics, and we are not the only ones looking for details.

On Thursday, Bill Conley posted on the sheriff’s Facebook page, saying, “I’m tired of our all the talk!”

Michael and Teresa said they’ve “Personally asked deputies why they don’t run radar and stop these fast drivers.”

A video shot before the policy change shows deputies utilizing a helicopter, which safety and security specialist Rich Kolko said helps keep people on the road safe.

“They’re usually not noticed by the people being pursued. And they have the opportunity to, you know, take pictures, find out where the car is going, see how many people are in the car, get vital information for investigators for law enforcement,” said Kolko.

So were helicopters part of the previous pursuit policy? How about drones and stop-sticks? Are they in every deputy’s car? Who makes the call to pursue? Who decides when to launch the helicopter or drone or use stop sticks?

WINK News has asked the sheriff’s office all these questions and will bring you the answers when the sheriff’s office sends us the old and new pursuit policies.

The sheriff’s office is not the only police agency fighting people with a lead foot.

“So we’ve been having our officers go out, and if they find street racing, they’re arresting the people responsible, inciting any spectators with non-criminal traffic violations,” said Officer Kyle Martins, with the Fort Myers Police Department.

Martins said going after street racers, and the people who watch them is making a difference. “We’ve actually seen a decline in those groups showing up to those locations.”

Locations like the Bravo Supermarket parking lot off Palm Beach Boulevard. Those with a need for speed don’t show up there anymore because they know those dangerous drivers will be seen and stopped.

“Every officer is equipped with stop sticks in their car. They use them pursuant to policy,” said Martins.

Officer Martins said Fort Myers Police policy says for an officer to pursue someone, a supervisor must give his or her approval. Often times LCSO helps them with helicopters, drones, and deputies.

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