Island Chatter: June

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March crime, visitor stats similar between 2019 and 2021

Having heard from Siesta residents who believe crime is rising on the Key, Kaitlyn Perez, community affairs director for the Sheriff’s Office, was asked for some comparison data.

During the April 1 meeting of the Siesta Key Association, Sgt. Arik Smith, leader of the Sheriff’s Office substation on the island, reported that the department received 620 calls for assistance on the Key in March. He noted that only 50 of those — 8% — were what used to be classified as Part 1 incidents, which the FBI considered the most serious types. (He also has explained that the classification system changed this year.)

Last March, of course, when the COVID-19 pandemic was getting underway, far fewer visitors were on the island for the latter part of the month. Therefore, Perez was asked about the stats for March 2019, which was more of a typical spring break month.

The Sheriff’s Office’s crime analyst indicated the total number of calls for service on Siesta in March 2019 was 537, Perez said. Of those, 22 — 4% — were considered Part 1 crimes.

Visitor statistics for this March and March 2019 were also compared.

For years, Visit Sarasota County, the county’s tourism agency, has contracted with a Tallahassee firm, Downs & St. Germain, to undertake research into visitor data each month. Downs & St. Germain conducts interviews with visitors and uses a variety of sources to arrive at its figures, its principals have explained to the county’s Tourist Development Council.

For March 2019, the firm put the total number of visitors to the county at 683,130. This March, the figure was 603,200.

However, since December 2020, Smith has indicated in his reports that tourism has been trending higher on the island. Because people are far less worried about contracting COVID-19 when they are outdoors, based on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kids’ beach run returns to Siesta Beach

After a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Kids Summer Beach Run returns June 8.

Starting then, the event will be held every Tuesday through July from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Adult runners begin at 7 p.m.

  On-site registration is held at Siesta Beach, which is the starting and finishing line for the 1-mile run. It’s for youngsters 18 and under (adults can join little ones) and participants receive a ribbon each week. Those who run four times receive an event-themed T-shirt.

  The free event is co-sponsored by Sarasota County and the Manasota Track Club.

Fireworks donations sought

  Donations are being sought by the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce for the 30th annual community fireworks display, set for July 4 on Siesta Beach.

   Sponsorships of $500 or more include seating in the preferred viewing area, parking, beverages, and snacks. The viewing area opens at 6 p.m. and fireworks begin at dusk.

   Here are details on sponsorship levels:

   $5,000: 10 parking passes, 40 reserved seats, and logo on four banners.

   $2,500: five parking passes, 20 reserved seats, and logo on two banners.

   $1,500: three parking passes, 12 reserved seats, and logo on one banner.

   $500: one parking pass, four reserved seats, and name on one banner.

   Contact Rachel Dixon, the chamber’s promotion and event coordinator, at or call (941) 349-3800.

Crows get to first snowy plover nest

In early April, Kylie Wilson, coordinator of Audubon Florida’s Bird Monitoring & Stewardship Program in Sarasota County, was excited to report the first snowy plover nest of the season on Siesta Beach.

    She found it near a spot that vacationers had staked out on the beach, and the couple did not hesitate at all to move after she explained the situation to them, she reported.

    However, on April 22, in her email update to volunteers and other interested persons, Wilson wrote, “Unfortunate news to start off with: the snowy plover nest failed over the weekend.”

    Crows were the culprits, she added, noting that she had found crow tracks at the empty bowl of the nest on the beach, and she had seen the crows on the game camera she had set up near the site.

    However, in a later update, Wilson wrote that the same pair of snowy plovers appeared to be trying to nest again. She could tell the birds were the same as those she had seen earlier, she added, because the “female is fairly light and the male has a unique, faint dark spot on his chest. I have begun to call them ‘Mr. and Mrs. Spot.’”

John Morton
Author: John Morton

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