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    Letters to the Editors

    If Belleair is safe, what's the problem?

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 15, 2000

    I read the Nov. 3 article by Deborah O'Neil on the Belleair police, It's a badge and boredom in Belleair. Belleair has little crime, the police are getting their job done, the police are friendly and the residents like the police officers. This sounds like a town with a good police force. I wish O'Neil had made this observation more prominent in her article.

    My wife and I have lived in five locations in Pinellas County. Belleair is by far the safest area -- it was one of the reasons we moved here.

    I take walks in Belleair at all hours of the day and night and feel completely safe. When I first moved to Belleair, a police officer would occasionally greet me as I was walking. He would introduce himself and chat for a minute or two. It was reassuring and nice to see a police force being friendly while acquainting themselves with who was in the neighborhood. I've never seen this done by any other police department.

    Our police have come to our house to mention security concerns in the town and things to watch out for. Our police have put articles and ideas in our paper and fliers to help keep Belleair safe. Our police have come to our house about strange cars parked in the neighborhood. I've not observed other police forces taking these security measures.

    O'Neil's article said some people are concerned about the $1-million spent on our police force. She also said we have 4,100 residents. That works out to about $20 per person, per month, for town security. I think we should raise more money and give our police a raise.

    O'Neil reported that some people believe our policing should be turned over to another police force. I certainly hope not. Many times throughout the county I've seen people in distress (both in and out of their cars) and police cruisers go right by. I don't see that in Belleair. I've seen county deputies turn on their bubble lights to get through traffic, then turn the bubble lights off. I don't see that in Belleair.

    Rather than have another force take over Belleair's area, perhaps our police should go into the county and train other forces.
    -- Steve Johnson, Belleair

    Sheriff's Office couldn't do as good a job as police

    Re: Belleair residents should turn to Sheriff's Office, editorial, Nov. 7.

    I live in a little house in Belleair, not nearly valued at the average $236,000. Nor is our income anywhere near what the Times quotes as the average for our town.

    Yet we live in a neighborhood filled with children and working families that have been served well by our police force. During birthday parties and days when all the children are running through, we can place cones in the busy street to slow the traffic and protect them. The police encourage our efforts, speak to the children individually about the hazards of drugs, and are well-liked and respected by them.

    It is reprehensible for this newspaper to spotlight our town as easy pickings for criminals because of the mismanagement by the former police chief. Indeed, if the outcome of the "airing of dirty laundry" is to better prepare our police department for the criminal element you seem to want to send our way, then better safe than sorry.

    Without question, all police officers need to be CPR-trained, have accountability for all firearms assigned to them and perform their jobs with integrity and professionalism. Spotlighting and correcting these deficiencies are expected of the new police chief, George Harmansky, with the support of the town and Town Manager Steve Cottrell.

    Indeed, I do expect the constructive criticism highlighted by Deborah O'Neil's Nov. 3 article (It's a badge and boredom in Belleair) to have a positive effect on our police department.

    However, the editorial encourages Belleair residents to turn to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and disband our 11-member department so as to save us money. How do you value safety?

    When we lived not more than a half-mile away, in unincorporated Pinellas County just across Clearwater-Largo Road, we had to rely on the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to protect our family from a stick-wielding drunk screaming obscenities and threatening to come back with his gun. The Sheriff's Office did not show up for more than 45 minutes. Each minute seemed an eternity. My kids were traumatized and could no longer sleep at that home. How much did that cost? Way too much for my family.

    Pinellas County has almost 1-million residents. How long would you be willing to wait if your family were in imminent danger?

    I support the Belleair Police Department. The officers have served us well. And with accountable leadership, they will be trained and equipped to serve us better.
    -- Dianne C. Hodill, Belleair

    Need for Airco golf course outweighs business park

    Re: Course is on uncertain ground, Nov. 7 story.

    As a longtime player at Airco Golf Course, I strongly urge the county commissioners to keep and improve Airco. The need for a good regulation-length course at this location far outweighs that of another business park. Don't let high-pressure developers steal this facility from us.

    With some investment in course maintenance and an improvement in employee attitudes, Airco could be a very nice place to play because the basic layout is player-friendly. Hopefully, the green fees in the low season would stay under $25 and high season would stay under $35.
    -- John G. Tuset, Clearwater

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