Naples Homeowners Kill Proposal for Hiring Their Own Police
A controversial proposal that would have residents in the exclusive, picture-postcard-perfect Naples neighborhood paying for their own police protection died this week.
The executive board of the Naples Improvement Assn. killed the idea Tuesday night, citing the results of a recent straw poll indicating that most residents are against creating an assessment district to pay for 24-hour police protection.
“The community is not ready for this,” said Bob Luskin, the association’s president. “We’re putting it to rest.”
Under the plan, Naples property owners would have been taxed an extra $235 annually to add five officers to the Long Beach Police Department. The five officers would have taken turns patrolling the million-dollar homes on the islands in the southeastern corner of the city.
But the plan drew criticism from various community leaders, who said it was an elitist, provincial answer to a burgeoning crime problem sweeping across the city.
Many Naples residents themselves opposed the plan. In a poll conducted by mail, the plan failed by a 206-163 vote. In comments written on their tallies and during a community meeting a week ago, the residents’ primary opposition to the plan was its cost.
“I don’t understand why we need to pay for more police,” said one elderly woman attending the meeting at Naples School. “I have an alarm system. I do the best I can. I don’t want any more expenses.”
Some residents said they also wondered whether the neighborhood was overreacting, and they worried about the kinds of criticism they have already heard.
“And just how would the rest of the city perceive us if we do this?” asked resident Arthur C. O’Byrne.
Ironically, while the city continues to experience sharp increases in crime, Naples, when compared with other neighborhoods, is barely touched by it, according to Police Chief Lawrence Binkley.
“You have less crime and less (of a ripple) effect than anywhere else in the city,” Binkley told more than 200 Naples residents gathered last week.
The city experienced a 23.6% increase in major crimes during the first three months of this year, compared to last year, Binkley announced on Monday.
There has been an increase in break-ins and street people in Naples, police and residents said. But crime statistics are not broken down by neighborhoods and not specifically available for Naples, although Binkley told the group meeting last week that he would order such a study.
The police chief would not give his opinion on the unique plan, saying that the decision was up to the neighborhood.
Association leaders worked on the plan with Binkley, Councilwoman Jan Hall and City Hall officials after several Naples residents suggested that their neighborhood is not getting enough police protection, Luskin said. To create an assessment district, two-thirds of the voters within the boundaries of the proposed district must support taxing themselves. There are 1,752 parcels of land in Naples. Pointing to the poll, Hall said she does not believe voters would approve such a plan now.
But some residents said they were willing to pay extra to get more police. Sandy Davidson, a 19-year resident of Naples and a supporter of the tax, said: “The idea may have been premature. Sometimes you have to repeat something three times before people accept it.”
This issue, however, is dead, Luskin said. “It’s really up to the community, and the community clearly did not want it,” he said