Sheriff Hoffman responds to Siesta residents’ concerns

August 13, 2022 —

SKA was pleased to have Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman speak with us at our August 4 public meeting. Sheriff Hoffman was joined by Major Ryan Brown, who is in charge of the Law Enforcement Division for the Sheriff Department and Sgt. Daniel Smith, in charge of our Siesta Sheriff Station. Questions for the Sheriff, primarily regarding traffic, almost entirely consumed the meeting. Sheriff Hoffman reminded all that although we have major traffic issues, violent crime is low, we are not dealing with carjacking, vehicle burglary, armed robbery – there is not always time to focus on some of the quality-of-life issues.

In the brief summary below, questions are listed in order asked at the meeting. For complete answers, listen to the recorded meeting Unfortunately, the audience questions are not audible. Hopefully, you can determine what question the Sheriff is answering from the summary. (The recording also includes Tracy Jackson’s update for Save Siesta Key incorporation current activities. Due to unanticipated events, no video recording is available.)

The most prevalent emails regarded speeding/racing on south Midnight Pass Road. Sheriff Hoffman responded that though it is a difficult segment of roadway to monitor, it is patrolled, a zone car is assigned, and it is on their priority watch list. In December, the average speed was 36 miles per hour. However, he is aware of high-speed vehicles and ensuing crashes. He is exploring a possible Florida Department of Transportation grant to work this area. If you have a specific stretch of road to monitor, call the Sheriff’s non-emergency number (941 316-1206) and let them know.

Regarding the possibility of trolly pull outs, the Sheriff’s office does not make those decisions, however, the Sheriff will bring that issue to the Traffic Advisory Council.

Low-speed vehicles (LSVs)/golf carts drew multiple questions. Concerns about dangerous situations included, driving illegally on higher speed roadways, young drivers, and not using seat belts. The Sheriff clarified that licensed golf carts can drive on roadways with speed limits of 35 mph or less. However, by law they are required to drive no more than 25 mph and no less than 20 mph. The Sheriff does not write the laws but is tasked to enforce them. LSVs/golf carts on roadways must be licensed and have all required safety equipment including lights, horn, wipers, and seatbelts. Drivers must be licensed and insured and follow all roadway rules just as automobile drivers. One suggestion was to post signs on roadways where golf carts are not allowed. Enforcing golf cart regulations is a continuing frustration. The Sheriff has observed that at the Traffic Advisory Council meetings, about half the complaints are that the LSV regulations are over enforced and about half are that the regulations are not sufficiently enforced.

The Sheriff was asked whether he was ticketing vehicles with loud music/noise and whether the new legislation on this topic has helped with enforcement. Deputies do ticket such cars, however due to the ambiguity in the law, many tickets are dismissed in court. The Sheriff said the recent legislation has better language but is still not unambiguous. He will be monitoring court outcomes under the new legislation.

How is the Sheriff dealing with trespassing on private beach property? With great difficulty. He read the regulation regarding “mean high water line” and challenged anyone to be able to determine whether someone was landward or seaward of that line. And, yes, the mean high-water line can be in the water! The location does not depend on wet sand, dry sand, vegetation, water. It is a 19-year average of high-water. The line is not straight, but snakes along the beach. Survey markers are helpful, but the law is still almost impossible to enforce. A warning is required prior to an arrest. Many arrests do not hold up in court.

Yes, we ticket speeding drivers on Stickney Point Road was the response to the next question. Sgt. Smith will provide the citation numbers at the September 1 SKA meeting.

What is being done about the deteriorating situation in the Siesta Key south commercial district and Beach Access 12, with significantly increased underage drinking, fighting, and violence? Sheriff Hoffman is monitoring to see whether the new procedures put in place prior to July 4th will improve the situation. Those procedures focused on underage drinking. He has put the area on the high priority watch list. He emphasized that if you see something dangerous or that looks like it might escalate into someone being harmed, call 911. If the operator determines that the issue is not an emergency, the operator can reroute calls to a lower priority.

“Are there noise regulations for boats on the canals?” brought up another clearly frustrating enforcement issue – including all noise violations – that is extremely difficult to enforce. There is a noise regulation; it needs to be rewritten, was Sheriff Hoffman’s closing comment on the issue.