A series of horrible crimes has hit the golden city of Sarasota, Florida, according to news reports, and the city government itself has had to marshal all of its forces — from the city manager to the police department to the depart of public works — to forestall a complete collapse of civility and safety, law and order there.

First to be arrested in a crime sweep last Sunday was 28-year-old Darren Kersey, a homeless man, who was charged with charging. He did not charge the officer who arrested him on the charge of charging, and because he was homeless he could not charge on a credit card the $500 bail required to be released on the charging charge, so the charge of charging landed him in jail for the night, where the police were put in charge of him.

To explain further, Mr. Kersey was charged with charging his cell phone at a public electric outlet in a picnic shelter in the city’s Gillespie Park. The arresting officer was not a mere patrolman, but a sergeant on the city’s police force, Anthony Frangioni, who wrote in his arrest report that he told Mr. Kersey that the “theft of city utilities will not be tolerated during this bad economy,” according to a news report in The Sarasota Herald Tribune which may be found here…

Sgt. Frangioni, as a 14-year-veteran of the police force, knew a serious crime when he saw one, and took immediate action to protect the citizens of what in 2006 was labeled the “meanest city” in the nation by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless.

The charge of charging against Mr. Kersey, standing alone, might be considered a minor offense — if an offense at all — but his crime is part of a larger and escalating problem at Gillespie Park, according to news reports. Apparently, more than a few homeless people use the electrical outlet there to charge their cell phones. They carry the phones, they say, so that they are able to call 911 should they ever need to. They also try to stay in touch with whatever friends or family they have left, the Herald Tribune story said.

Residents living near the park have started complaining, not only about the charging of cell phones, but the escalating situation when a homeless woman in an electric wheelchair stopped to charge her chair. And the crime spree goes further, the Gillespie Park Neighborhood Association says. According to the Herald Tribune report, the association president said in a letter to city officials that the stealing of electricity was not the only crime being committed at the location by the homeless. They were also burning wood in the park’s grills to keep warm, sleeping in the park overnight, and smoking and drinking in the park, her letter said.

To stop at least the first of these rampant crimes from continuing, the municipality recently sent a crew from the city, accompanied by a police captain, to the park to shut down all electric power at the location.

This left the homeless lady, identified as Maura “Cookie” Wood, with only an hour’s power left in her wheelchair, but it did stop the electricity theft crime wave. At least for an hour. Sixty minutes later that the park’s power was turned back on, with the city manager calling the shut-off a misunderstanding. Or, as he termed it in his own words, an “oops,” according to a follow-up Herald Tribune story, found here:

Meanwhile Mr. Kersey, the criminal originally arrested for the flagrant broad-daylight theft of the city’s electricity, said when he was interviewed later by the newspaper, that he wondered if perhaps his arrest on the charging charge might have been motivated by police Sgt. Frangioni being angry at him for walking over to the sergeant’s patrol car and snapping a picture of the car’s license plate after Mr. Kersey observed the officer arresting another homeless man for smoking in the park. Police officers have been known to react with anger when citizens try to make a record of their actions when seeking to put a stop to major offenses such as people smoking in a public park.

Such lawlessness cannot and will not be allowed in Sarasota, if press reports are to be believed. A major crackdown will apparently be required to keep the members of the Gillespie Park Neighborhood Association safe.

Oh…a final note: The charging charge against Mr. Kersey was dropped when he appeared in court as ordered the morning after he spent the night in jail. Circuit Judge Charles Williams threw the case out — but not quite soon enough. When Mr. Kersey reported for work at his new job as a laborer at a flower shop, a position he had just landed days before his arrest, he was fired for not showing up because he was in jail that morning, awaiting his arraignment in court.

But justice had been done in Sarasota, where the citizens can be proud of their police force and their city manager.

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