Community policing making a difference

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SARASOTA-"It was getting a little scary a while back because there was a lot of shootings going on," said Newtown resident Sherrina Brown. 

Brown says there was a point when the crime in her area had gotten really out of hand. 

"People were getting killed quite a bit in one week.  It was getting to the point where their was a murder or two to three a month," added Brown.

But crime in the Newtown area is on the decline.  And Brown says that's partly because of the efforts of local churches and community organizations.  Now the city of Sarasota and the Police Department are teaming up with those groups to continue the trend.

"We are not just going to stand by and allow criminals to come into our community. We are going to do everything we can and working with the citizens in our community to fight crime," said Chief DiPino.

Recently that partnership was on display.  The group held what they called a "March Against the Madness".  It was in response to a rash of violence and other crimes in the area.  The strategy is called Drug Market Intervention and it already seems to be paying off.

"We've already arrested 39 individuals involved in dealing drugs in the New Town area," said DiPino.

But the arrests and the building of community relationships to help solve crimes are just part of the new initiative.  City officials say they are also taking a proactive rather than reactive approach.

"Law enforcement has long realized they can't arrest their way out. We are going about identifying those persons who are the worst to the least and  then create alternatives rather than jail," said Sarasota Vice Mayor Willie Shaw.

Currently the flagship program is just targeting Newtown but officials plan to expand it to the entire community in hopes of further reducing the crime rate.

"When Sarasota learns we are all one working towards a common goal I think we will be much further ahead way and we will see changes," added Shaw.