There is no easy way to say this: We are not safe anymore. Law enforcement is failing us.
Crime is up all over. Violence is rampant in our streets. In some places, gunshots are a common sound and the body count keeps climbing.
Just in the past month, we've had drive-by shootings, murders and now two people (one pregnant) shot and killed while sitting in their car. Thankfully, the 3 year-old child asleep in the back of the car wasn't killed.
According to the 2011 Uniform Crime Report by Florida's Department of Law Enforcement, last year there were 38 murders in Lee County. Twenty of them occurred in the City of Fort Myers alone (up from 7 the year before - a 35 percent increase in violent death in Fort Myers). This year there have been 12 murders in Fort Myers already. Keeping at the current trend, this will be another record-breaking year of murder. Already, Fort Myers is ranked as one of the most violent cities in Florida.
Last year, there were 107 rapes (sexual battery) forced upon people in Lee County. Over 600 robberies occurred (a robbery is theft while using force - think of a bank robbery with guns) and 5,326 burglaries were reported (a burglary is where someone breaks into your house, car or business).
Don't be fooled. Violence brews in our streets. It is no longer confined to a particular area. Unchecked, violence will continue to spread. Last week there was a shooting on Colonial Boulevard in broad daylight. How many people drive on Colonial Blvd on a given morning or afternoon? What are the chances an innocent person might become an unintentional victim?
So where's the help? What is preventing law enforcement from doing its job? What is keeping us from safety? Politics is the answer. There are too many politics in law enforcement. There are too many "invisible" lines drawn on the ground. There are too many turf wars over whose responsibility it is to work one crime or another. There are too many jurisdictional disputes.
The fact of the matter is simple: The criminal element does not pay attention to imaginary lines drawn on maps hanging in police headquarters somewhere. Criminals will hurt and kill when and where they want to unless there is a reason not to. That reason is why law enforcement exists.
The sheriff of Lee County is responsible for everything that happens in this county. Period. A leader knows that he/she is responsible for everything that happens, or does not happen, under his/her watch. So said, the sheriff is responsible for crime in Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Sanibel Island, Lehigh Acres and everywhere in between.
The Sheriff's Office has more resources to fight crime than the municipalities do. So why isn't the sheriff helping to curb the violence in Fort Myers? Again, it's politics.
There are too many kingdoms in Lee County. The sheriff doesn't communicate well with other municipalities. Imagine the chaos if the Marines, Navy, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard did not coordinate their efforts and communicate. Imagine if each service were to do what its respective commander wanted to do. Chaos would reign. Our safety would be jeopardized. People would get hurt. The same concept applies here in Lee County, too.
It's an election year. The sheriff wants to continue on his "Crime Down, Budget Down" campaign. He is quick to point out that the cities are responsible for the crime within those imaginary boundaries. If he assumes responsibility for the city's high murder rate, then he can't stay on the Crime Down aspect. So, in the name of politics, he doesn't get involved in stopping the bloodshed.
Ask yourself, what is a life worth? What is your mother's life, brother's life, or children's life worth to you? While many have the luxury of sitting back and watching the violence on television, many people are living it day-in and day-out. As the violence continues to spread, you can rest assured it will be at your door sooner than you think.
On behalf of all the victims of violent crime, I want to see a cooperative Violent Crime Task Force enacted. The Sheriff's Office has the resources. Members of all law enforcement bodies need to contribute and seek out those who aim to harm. It's time to stop being politicians and worrying about numbers. It's time to become cops again.
If I were sheriff today, this would be done already. I don't care who gets the credit or who gets to stand in front of the cameras. It doesn't matter to me who gets an award or who gets invited to a special dinner. I can't bear the thought of an innocent person needlessly dying - especially when the resources are present to stop this threat.
So again, I ask you - What is a life worth?
Lee Bushong is a non-party affiliated candidate for Lee County Sheriff and a former lieutenant, detective sergeant and homicide detective with the
Lee County Sheriff's Office. His name will appear on the General Election ballot in November.