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Vero Beach police form new team to combat nuisance crimes

Posted at 4:09 PM, Oct 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-26 17:45:13-04

VERO BEACH, Fla. — The Vero Beach Police Department has formed a new team focused solely on tackling what they call "nuisance crimes" like panhandling, littering, and public intoxication. Those crimes impact quality of life for people who live, work, and visit Vero Beach.

King Pompano Bait and Tackle owner Manuel Bariceno has been helping local fishermen for years, setting them up with all they need to reel in picture-worthy catch.

But as his business has grown, he said so have problems outside his front door.

"It’s been a problem and it’s been getting bigger and bigger every year," Bariceno said.

Sometimes it's panhandlers or people intoxicated in the parking lot.

"They were sleeping on the sidewalks," Bariceno said.

He's long worried about how it impacts his business.

"We have to do something about it because they were scaring customers away," Bariceno said.

"It sometimes will scare people," said Vero Beach police Lt. Matt Harrelson.

Harrelson said that’s why the department formed the Community Partnership Unit, or CPU.

"We’re partnering up with not just the citizens of our community, but also the business owners," Harrelson said.

Working together to tackle nuisance crimes like littering, public intoxication, or panhandling, sometimes out into the roadway, with a team dedicated just to addressing those complaints.

"On a day shift on average this time of year especially, we may get 10 to 12 calls a day on someone who was drunk and disorderly, someone sleeping in the middle of a parking lot, someone is littering, someone is soliciting or begging for money," Harrelson said.

This new unit forming just as the city of Vero Beach also passed a new ordinance banning panhandling after dark and within 20 feet of certain locations, like businesses, bus stops, ATMs, daycares and schools, and 150 feet of signaled intersections.

"It allows us to enforce these panhandling problems, whereas before we didn’t really have an ordinance that we can enforce," Harrelson said.

Officers are also giving signs to businesses they can put on their windows to show people they’re working with police, while also giving panhandlers, the homeless, or others who might actually need help information on where to go.