IRB City Commissioners and Mayor attend a meeting on law enforcement in the city. From Left are Commissioners Phil Hanna, Cookie Kennedy and Jim Labadie, Vice-Mayor Terry Hamilton-Wollin and Mayor R.B. Johnson.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – “Turn down the noise” was the common theme of a special meeting on the state of law enforcement in Indian Rocks Beach. The Nov. 29 meeting was in response to residents’ complaints about treatment they receive from patrolling deputies.
Yet motorcycle noise dominated the night with resident after resident complaining about it.
Twelve-year Indian Rocks Beach resident Mike Zender said the noise has gotten progressively worse over the years.
“I think it is the number of establishments on Gulf Boulevard which sell liquor,” he said. “It is attracting the wrong kind of crowd. I know the officers are doing the best they can but it isn’t working. I threatened to tape the noise and then come to a commission meeting and play it while you are trying to conduct business then you’ll see what I mean.”
Zender said the Sheriff’s Office should provide a deputy on patrol in the evening just to monitor the noise situation and to have that deputy trained and certified in reading noise meters.
Commissioner Jim Labadie said the motorcycle noise was out of control.
“I’ve been told that there isn’t enough manpower to dedicate solely to the motorcycle noise,” he said. “But we somehow have to make bikers aware of our laws. I appreciate the sheriff’s efforts but we need help in that area.”
Resident Todd Plumlee weighed in on the situation.
“Most of those bikers don’t live here,” he said. “They just come out here to cruise the beach; they might stop in at our restaurants but mostly they are just cruising. We have to establish a reputation and make it a hassle for those bikers with illegal exhausts and noisy machines. Once we have the reputation, it will stop. Nobody speeds through Waldo any more do they?”
That remark was in reference to the city with a reputation for being a speed trap on U.S. Hwy. 301 in North Florida.
Commissioner Terry Hamilton-Wollin ended the discussion with some tough words.
She said, “All I have been hearing tonight is noise, noise, noise and we’ve been hearing this for a long time. We have to begin to think about the people who have to put up with it.
“Motorcycles are a relatively new phenomenon; they came long after all the restaurants and bars. We now have to find a way to stand up to this and stop it.”
New Community Policing Deputy Noel Dunham addressed the issue saying, “There are two ways we can control motorcycles. We can use the noise ordinance or we can stop those with modified exhausts that are illegal and we can begin pulling them over and issuing them warnings and let’s see if that has an effect.”
Motorcycle noise wasn’t the only concern of the residents, however. Larry King wanted more police presence on the beach.
“There should be a patrol regularly on the beach,” he said. “It would take an hour and a half to walk from one end of the beach to the other and it would be good exercise for the officer.”
King, who lives on the beach, has found people asleep on the lounge chairs in his backyard. People who had to climb a fence to get in, he said.
Commissioner Cookie Kennedy said she was concerned after hearing from some residents about the demeanor of some deputies.
“Perhaps in other cities like St. Petersburg the officers have to be more aggressive, but here we want a kinder atmosphere,” she said.
Dunham explained how tough it could be for a deputy to react to different types of calls during a shift.
“At one call we may have to go face to face with someone and have them calling us all sorts of names. Then the next call we may be dealing with a family who has just lost a child. Our emotions go up and down, up and down, all day long and we’re just human, so sometimes it is tough,” he said.
Indian Rocks Beach contracts for law enforcement with the Sherriff’s Office. Dunham was hired this fall as the city’s first community policing deputy. Part of his duties entails dealing with ongoing issues that affect the community as opposed to patrol deputies who answer emergency calls during a shift.
Despite the fact that just a dozen residents showed up for the meeting, the organizers considered it a success.
Lt. Joe Gerretz of the Sheriff’s Office said he was happy with it.
“I think it was very successful,” he said. “Anytime you talk and exchange ideas it is a good thing. Sometimes perception is reality so we have to make sure that what people perceive is actually what is happening, to do that we need this sort of open communication.”
City Manager Chuck Coward also was pleased.
“It was very good; the comments were very thoughtful,” he said. “We heard some ideas tonight that will allow us to improve our performance.”
Coward and his staff will now prepare a report, which both the City Commission and the Sheriff’s Office will receive and decide on what, if any, action must be taken.