By Jay Meisel
FORT PIERCE - On a recent Sunday evening, Fort Pierce Police Officer Steven Sobon drove through the neighborhoods of north and northwest Fort Pierce.
He passed locations where there've been shootings, fights and murders. But on this particular Sunday on Aug. 12, little activity seemed to be going on. No gunshots could be heard. Few people seemed to be out.
"When they (gang members and other criminals) know we're out, criminal activity will drop," he said.
Officer Sobon was one of a few Fort Pierce police officers and St. Lucie County deputies assigned to the annual summer detail aimed at curbing gang activity and other crime during the time school is out of session.
But nobody believes such operations eliminate all crime, he said.
And that was evident this past summer when there were several shootings, as well as Fort Pierce's first murder of the year.
There are not enough officers to have one on every block during every minute of every day, he said.
Yet, Officer Sobon and Ryan Register, a St. Lucie County deputy assigned to the summer operation, say there've been successes.
One occurred when two summer operation officers were instrumental in nabbing two men who had committed a brutal rape and abduction earlier that summer evening.
And the lack of activity on Aug. 12 was a testament to the effectiveness of the operation, Deputy Register said.
"Obviously we're doing our job," he said.
When the summer operation began after school let out, officers and deputies made five or more arrests per night, Officer Sobon said.
Toward the end of the summer, that number dropped, he said.
He believes that's largely because of the presence of the summer detail.
Deputy Register said when the numbers are compared he believes arrests have dropped this year from previous summer operations.
He believes that may be in part because the gangs know officers are out in larger numbers every summer.
During some previous years, the Fort Pierce Police Department handled the summer operation on its own
"Working with the sheriff's office is far better," Officer Sobon said.
Not only does the partnership provide more law officers on the detail, but also criminal activity is not based on city boundaries, he said.
Officers involved in the summer detail hope it helps the community know they are concerned about the welfare of people there, he said.
Officer Sobon said they want the community to be involved in reducing crime.
As he was driving, one woman in a car made contact with him about what turned out to be largely a domestic incident.
But he said they also get information about the types of crime targeted by the detail.
While driving past one house, Officer Sobon pointed to a porch where three young women were shot, two fatally, in November 2010. The murders remain unsolved.
Community involvement is what will help solve crimes like that and prevent other murders, he said.
"There's a lot of people who will help the police," he said.
But, he added, there needs to be more.
People in the community need to take the stance that they won't tolerate such violent criminal activity, he said.