Largo Residents Are Nervous About Work Release Convicts Housed in Their Neighborhood
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO – Some residents on the eastern side of the city are very nervous about a work release center in their neighborhood that has been opened by the state Department of Corrections.
Folks are afraid of having convicted criminals cheek by jowl with them in a highly residential area just on the west side of U.S. 19 and about one-third mile north of East Bay Drive.
What is troubling to residents is that there are a couple of mobile home parks in the neighborhood, a large apartment complex is nearby, and across U.S. 19 to the east is a heavily residential area.
While the work release center – already opened – is in the county, it is an enclave that is surrounded by Largo.
The first inkling of this came last week in the Manager’s Report put out by the city each Friday wherein it is reported that Goodwill Industries is running the facility which can house up to 281 convicts.
All are felons from various Florida prisons. The Department of Correction claims they are non-violent criminals. The convicts have jobs out in the community but because they do not have vehicles the inmates on this work release program have to get to their jobs by foot, bike, or bus.
They are supposed to return to the facility at the end of their work each day. There is a curfew, according to the report, of 11 p.m... unless an individual is working a late shift.
Even though the facility is not actually located in the city of Largo, it might as well be because the city totally surrounds it and one of the questions being raised by several residents is whether the city was consulted on the location of the work release center.
Largo is chockablock full of enclaves that are in the county’s jurisdiction so this raises the question among many as to what other types of facilities could be plunked down in the middle of the city.
In the meantime, Harry Ploger, a city resident who has been imploring city officials to do something about sidewalks on 8th Avenue NW as a safety measure has kept up his drumbeat of e-mails to city officials.
Last Friday, Ploger e-mailed city officials saying, “Enough! This city does not recognize our neighborhood. It is actively seeking new people to annex, but cannot find time or money to provide us safety and security. It is time for this neighborhood to opt out of Largo and form our own small corporation.”
Mac Craig, the city manager, responded to Ploger earlier by explaining that the problems on 8th Avenue NW go beyond sidewalks and include a drainage project.
Craig said the situation is further complicated because the city owns the south side of the road and the county the north side. A lack of funds is part of the problem, he said.
Two Largo police officers, Anthony Citrano and Jorge Alameda, were honored in Tallahassee for their efforts in drunk driving enforcement.
Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and Don Murray, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a political group that has lobbied courts for stronger drunk driving penalties, presented the awards.
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