By Rachel Brown Hackney
During the May 22 membership meeting of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, the new leader of the Sheriff’s Office substation on the Key introduced himself.
His first official day on the Key was May 2, Sgt. Arik Smith told the group of about 20 people.
He has been with the Sheriff’s Office since 2006, he continued, having served with the Patrol and Tactical divisions. He spent a little more than six years in undercover work with the Narcotics section, Smith added.
He and the previous substation leader, Lt. Paul Cernansky, have very similar philosophies about managing Sheriff’s Office operations on the island, Smith said. “If you guys were satisfied with Paul, hopefully, you guys will also be satisfied with me.”
Smith then noted that, from the Sheriff’s Office’s standpoint, spring break on the Key was “very successful. … Crime was down,” with few arrests, he noted.
“The biggest issue” in terms of crime on the island, Smith said, is vehicle burglaries, “and it’s extremely preventable. You lock your doors.”
Young people, especially, he pointed out, will check the door handles of vehicles. If they find one with the doors unlocked, Smith said, then they will look inside for items of value that they can take.
“Lock your doors,” he emphasized again. “It really makes a huge difference — just that simple act of keeping your doors locked.”
He encouraged business owners to, in turn, encourage their patrons to keep vehicle doors locked.
Wrapping up his comments, Smith told the group, “I’m excited to be here, and I hope it can last a long time.”
“Until you make lieutenant,” Michael Shay, manager of the Siesta Village maintenance, responded, referring to Cernansky’s months-long stint as substation leader before Cernansky was promoted.
Smith laughed, telling Shay that any chance of Smith’s moving up to lieutenant is “down the road.”
Then Shay took the opportunity to ask whether Sheriff’s Office personnel find that most of the vehicle burglaries occur in the Siesta Public Beach parking lot.
No, they do not, Smith replied. “The ones we’re running into,” he continued, occur behind businesses and in residential areas where it is much darker and few people are around. He called the incidents “crimes of opportunity.”
The buzz about all the cop cars on June 4
During the June Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting, President Catherine Luckner lamented the absence of the new Sheriff’s Office substation leader, Sgt. Arik Smith. (Smith had told the SNL in late May that he would be out of town and unable to attend the meeting, but he had hoped to send someone in his place.)
The primary reason she was disappointed, Luckner said, was that she was curious about an incident that occurred on the north end of the island on June 4. The Sheriff’s Office helicopter was flying around, she noted, and she saw about seven law enforcement officers. “They had surrounded something.”
She was hoping to hear the scoop from Smith.
New SKA Director Eddie Ward replied that he heard that teenagers had stolen a vehicle off the island and then led the law enforcement officers on a chase over to Siesta.
SNL contacted Kaitlyn R. Perez, community affairs director for the Sheriff’s Office, to request a report of the incident.
On June 10, she responded that four arrests were made on June 4 as a result of what transpired that evening.
“Three of the four arrestees are juveniles,” she added; they were charged with a misdemeanor count of Resisting Arrest. Because they are juveniles, Perez pointed out, she was unable to provide the reports regarding their involvement in the case. However, she did send the report for the fourth person arrested, who was identified as Lequavious Amon Claridy, 20, of Sarasota. He was charged with a misdemeanor count of Resisting without Violence.
His Corrections Division record listed his occupation as “Cook.”
He was placed under $500 bond. His arraignment was set for June 24.
The incident was reported at 7:50 p.m. on June 4, the report says. Claridy’s arrest was recorded at 8:09 p.m. at the intersection of Siesta Drive and Higel Avenue, the report notes.
The deputy who wrote the report said that he responded to a call about a burglary. A woman had notified the Sheriff’s Office that she had observed five people inside the home of a person who was out of town, the report continues.
When the deputy arrived, the report adds, the woman flagged him down to say she had seen the suspects on the beach.
“As I approached the end of Shell Road and made my way onto the beach to check the area behind the residence [where the suspects had been seen],” the deputy wrote, “I observed multiple subjects down the beach matching the [complainant’s] description.”
As the deputy began walking south toward the suspects, the report says, “they immediately started running east towards the residence.” The deputy pursued them on foot, giving them “loud verbal commands [to stop], but they continued to run east from me,” the deputy wrote.
The deputy then saw several of them get into a black Chevy Impala and drive “away at a high rate of speed.”
One of them, who had not made it to the car, continued to run from the deputy, the report notes. However, the deputy lost sight of that person at 4043 Shell Road, the report says.
The deputy checked the immediate area with the help of the Sheriff’s Office helicopter Air 2, the report adds, but the deputy was unable to locate the person.
Then, a sergeant and another deputy with the Sheriff’s Office spotted the Impala on Siesta Drive at the Higel Avenue intersection, the report says, and they stopped it. They took the four suspects they found inside the vehicle to the Sheriff’s Office, the report notes, where the officers contacted the parents and guardians of the juvenile suspects.
One suspect was transported to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, the report says, so that person could get “medially cleared due to smoking marijuana.”
All then were transported to the jail “on charges of resisting arrest without violence,” the report notes.
A deputy later spoke to the owner of the residence where the complainant first reported seeing the suspects, the report adds. The victim did not wish to be identified, the report says, referencing a state law that recently went into effect.