Leading Question

Has downtown Sarasota's crime rate risen along with the redeveloped skyline?

If you're a criminal, you're probably not happy with the changes brought about by the spiffy, bustling new downtown. "It's definitely getting better," says Lt. Paul Sutton, central district commander of the Sarasota Police Department, who's been working downtown streets for 23 years.

If you look at index crimes (those are the eight crimes the FBI measures: murder, forcible sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, burglary, grand larceny and motor vehicle theft), crime in the city of Sarasota has declined 6 percent a year from 2002 to 2005. To date in 2006, crime has decreased another 6 percent.

In the downtown core (U.S. 301 to the bayfront and from Fruitville Road south to Mound Street) index crimes declined 8 percent from August 2005 to August 2006 and 14 percent when you look at all incidents. (Remember, however, that we're talking about small numbers of crimes to start with, so a reduction of two or three aggravated batteries a year can reduce the index crime rate significantly. Sutton says that means two or three fewer battery victims, "which to me is significant.")

Why has crime been waning? Credit growth and development. Tax increment financing (TIF) and the real estate market have encouraged new condos and business, bringing more people downtown. The city added more foot patrol officers, and the Salvation Army moved from just north of Fruitville Road to 10th Street. (Interestingly, crime has gone down 13 percent in this neighborhood-known as the Rosemary District-as well, which Sutton attributes to the Salvation Army's cooperation in installing on-campus cameras, hiring a security guard and instituting the city's trespass enforcement program. "Out of the 1,059 citywide crimes, less than 3 percent are in the Rosemary District," Sutton says.)

Downtown today is unrecognizable from 1985 when city commissioners declared the area blighted and formed a TIF district to spur development. The stately old Maas Brothers department store, at the site of Hollywood 20, had closed, replaced by a weekend flea market. Prostitution and drug dealing were more common, says Sutton, while Main Street was deserted and businesses were leaving.

"We used to investigate twice as many crimes. Now it's completely reversed," Sutton says.-Susan Burns

CRIME WATCH

Downtown Sarasota's crime rate fell 14 percent (3,081 incidents to 2,640 incidents) between 2005 and 2006 for the eight-month period from Jan. 1 to Aug. 13. Citywide, crime has been falling 6 percent a year since 2002.

BUZZWORDS

I-mail: E-mail sent to peers, subordinates or superiors that frequently uses the pronoun "I," generally extolling the virtues of the sender.

To make a skilling: The well-timed stripping of assets so as to furnish a getaway. Named for Enron COO Jeffrey Skilling, who made "a skilling" by cashing in $66 million in stock before resigning.-Buzzwhack.com

MIND YOUR MANNERS

Business etiquette from national restaurant consultant Judi Gallagher.

Casual Friday dressing seems all over the place. What's truly appropriate? Although we live in a resort area, most offices prefer or require an office dress code, even on casual Fridays. A standard practice for men and women is khaki pants or skirt with a linen shirt or blouse for a clean and crisp look. According to attorney David Band, (one of the best-dressed attorneys in Sarasota) Able Band draws the line at jeans and shorts and requests an "upscale casual appearance." So mind your manners: no sandals, sneakers or loud, clicky shoes. Casual still means professional. www.judigallagher.com

MY FIRST JOB

The Shoe Fits

Blab TV owner Don Guercio was one of the original Nike salesmen.

By Abby Weingarten

Soon after Blab TV owner Don Guercio launched Don Guercio Sports Sales Inc., he paired up with Nike founder Phil Knight and began peddling the new shoe. The experience catapulted the Bird Key resident into the world of athletics, which he now discusses in his Blab TV show, Let's Talk Sports, at 7 p.m. every Thursday on Channel 21.

"Don Guercio Sports Sales served the western half of New York, Pennsylvania, and some of West Virginia and Ohio. At the time, in 1976, a friend in California told me about a little Oregon footwear company. The owner, Phil Knight, said he was going to have the biggest shoe company in America. For some reason, I decided I would take this shoe line and I became one of about eight or nine guys who were the first Nike salesmen.

"I went out door-to-door and there was very lukewarm reception. At the time, Adidas, Puma and Converse were the big lines. But somehow we just prevailed. The great baseball player Carlton Fisk said, 'I'll wear your shoe' and that gave us a little bit of legitimacy. After a while, they allowed grammar school kids to wear jeans to school, and this made them more likely to wear sneakers. It became the uniform of kids in America around 1979.

"Nike became so powerful. The first year, I sold $2,000 worth of the line, then close to $2 million in 1984. Working for them was a tremendous experience. I learned a lot about people. You can't make it in sales if you don't have people skills.

"In 1995, I bought Blab TV. I had no experience in TV but it's still a marketing game. The same initiative I felt when I was a young kid, I still have that same feeling today. I love the challenge."

CRUNCHING NUMBERS

FORECLOSURES 2006

Number of U.S. homes entering foreclosure during second quarter 2006: 272,109

Change since last year: 25 percent increase

No. in Florida entering foreclosure during second quarter: 25,853

Change since last year: 16 percent decrease

No. in Manatee County: 349

Change since first quarter: 5.7 percent increase

No. in Sarasota County: 300

Change since first quarter: 36 percent decrease

Florida's national ranking in foreclosures during second quarter: 3

Florida's foreclosure rate: 1 of every 283 households

Manatee rate: 1/396 households

Sarasota rate: 1/608 households

National average: 1 of every 425

Sarasota/Bradenton's ranking among 252 metro areas: 55

The number of Florida communities ranked in top 100: 10 (#11 Miami-Fort Lauderdale, #15 Jacksonville, #22 West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, #27 Orlando, #32 Lakeland-Winterhaven, #35 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater,

#57 Pensacola, #63 Melbourne-Titusville,#66 Daytona

SOURCE: RealtyTrac Second Quarter 2006 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report

FIVE QUESTIONS

Spa Star

Body & Spirit's JoDell Anderson is Florida's businesswoman of the year.

Last March, JoDell Anderson, owner of Sarasota's luxury day spa Body & Spirit, won the 2005 Florida Businesswoman of the Year award from the Business Advisory Council. A former emergency room nurse, she spent 10 years working in Green Bay, Wis., and Miami hospitals before becoming a stay-at-home mom. When the opportunity arose six years ago to invest in the spa, she jumped. At her award reception in Washington, D.C., she participated in discussions with keynote speakers President George W. Bush and his chief strategist, Karl Rove.

Tell me about your history with Body & Spirit. I had the opportunity to get involved as a silent investor in the spa six years ago, and three years ago became the majority owner. I've taken a direction I never thought I would go in, being in business. Now I am taking care of people in a different way than I did as a nurse.

How did you build your business? I wanted to put more emphasis on providing services that would [encourage] repeat business. For instance, with our Just in Time program, we send out e-mails every day listing our services, and if clients say they're interested and call in the next day, they can come in and get 10 percent off. We donate $250 to $350 to a charity every month. We've really tried to work with our staff to see what we can do to make their working environment better. We got group health insurance in January.

Why were you selected as Florida's No. 1 businesswoman? I think they looked at growth, what you do in the community and what kind of work you provide. We had been growing steadily about 10 percent a month. Since Mary Winter, my spa director, came in, we've grown 25 to 30 percent a month. She allowed me to step aside and focus more on the community efforts. I've been involved in the schools for 20 years with the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) and I'm foundation president at Riverview High School and choir director at St. John's United Methodist Church. They looked at the fact that I'm a parent, too.

What are the biggest issues facing you and other small business owners? Keeping good, qualified help. Sarasota has become an expensive place to live and we want high-quality staff. With the cost of insurance going up because of the hurricanes, it's a challenge keeping the expenses under control so you can keep a profit margin. It's a 3,500-square-foot building and I have a 40-person staff that services 1,300 guests a month.

What did you think of the president and Karl Rove? I was very impressed. They were concerned about issues with small business, tax reform and energy, and they wanted our insights on that. I participated. I was very interested in energy and how they're looking for ways to not be so dependent on oil. I feel strongly about tax reform, and I'm more interested in a flat tax. There are too many loopholes, and the people who have the money to hire the attorneys tend to come out on top. I told them I think the small businessperson takes the hit in the end.

BUSINESS CALENDAR

Oct. 5

Greater Sarasota Chamber partners meeting 7:45 a.m. at the Chamber Boardroom, 1945 Fruitville Road, Sarasota. Call 955-2508 ext. 234 or e-mail pmorgan@sarasotachamber.org.

Oct. 10

Greater Sarasota Chamber Power Networking Lunch 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at Serendipity Country Club, 3600 Torrey Pines Blvd. $12, members only. Call 926-2810 or e-mail bturpin@powernetworkinglunch.com.

Oct. 11

11th Annual Manatee County Fall Job Fair & Career Expo presented by the Manatee Chamber. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Manatee Convention Center, One Haben Blvd., Palmetto. Call 782-5700 or e-mail JahnaL@ManateeChamber.com.

Oct. 17

Greater Sarasota Chamber Power Networking Lunch 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Location is TBA. $12, members only. Call 926-2810 or e-mail bturpin@powernetworkinglunch.com.

Downtown Partnership of Sarasota Roundtable Lunch 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at the University Club.

Oct. 18

Longboat Key Chamber "Nooner" Luncheon 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Sun House, 111 Gulf Drive S., Bradenton Beach. $15 for members, $20 for nonmembers. Call 383-2466.

Oct. 19

Longboat Key Chamber Business After Hours 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. $5 for members, $10 for nonmembers. Call 383-2466.

Manatee Chamber Gospel Dinner Theatre 7 to 11 p.m. at the Bradenton City Centre, 1005 Barcarotta Blvd., Bradenton. $40 per person. Call 744-1450 or e-mail empowermentworldwide@yahoo.com.

Downtown Partnership of Sarasota membership breakfast 7:45 to 8:45 a.m. at a location TBD.

Oct. 20

Women & Money: The Savage Truth featuring national financial expert, Terry Savage. Presented by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice. Beginning at 8 a.m. at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. $49. Call 365-7716 or e-mail info@fortycarrots.com.

Oct. 21

Manatee County Medical Society 100 Year Celebration, presented by the Manatee Chamber. 6 to 11:45 p.m. at Fred's at Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton. Call 755-3411 or e-mail info@manateemed.org.

Oct. 24

"Destination Downtown" forum on the Attainable Housing Resident District (AROD) $25 for members, $40 for nonmembers. Time and location are TBD.

Oct. 25

Greater Sarasota Annual Membership Luncheon 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. $50 for members, $65 for nonmembers. RSVP and advanced payment are required. Call 955-2508 ext. 517.

"Good Morning, Longboat Key!" Breakfast 8 to 9 a.m. at the Chamber office, 6960 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key. No cost for attendance. Call 383-2466.

Oct. 26

"Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery" featuring Stephen Curtiss of E Solutions. Presented by 82 Degrees Tech. 5 to 7 p.m. at Hilton Garden Inn. RSVP by Oct. 20, 2006. Call 870-0078.

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