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Report from Downtown Lakeland armed guard shows need for security

Downtown Lakeland on 6/21/2002
Posted at 6:51 PM, Jun 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-21 18:51:45-04

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Lakeland Downtown Development Authority is looking into more security, after hiring an armed guard in May.

The Cake Makers Studio located in Downtown Lakeland is known for their elaborate cakes and wide variety of ice cream.

“We have 24 different flavors but one of the most popular as you can see is the Cookies N' Cream,” said Owner of Cake Makers Studio Luis Arias.

Arias said summer is a busy time for his business. So, he is grateful to have an armed guard patrolling downtown, five days a week.

“We called him a couple of times, regarding a group of kids. They were messing around. He talked to them and had a good approach,” Arias said.

The Lakeland Downtown Development Authority hired the private armed guard a little over a month ago, to respond quickly to non-emergency situations, that police officers aren’t readily available to get to. The guard reported patrolling 205 times from May 15 to June 15. A majority of them non-criminal incidents.

“If there’s an electrical box that’s not secure, he’s going to report that. If there’s a street light out, he’s going to report that. So, this is not police activity, this is what we’re asking them to report to us,” said LDDA Executive Director Julie Townsend.

Townsend said there has been an uptick in graffiti and 19 disturbances were reported.

“One incident of a gentleman who had fallen asleep in his vehicle while it was running and appeared to be intoxicated,” said Townsend.

LDDA is paying $7,995 a month for the security guard, on a six-month trial. The agency will decide whether to extend the contract or seek additional help from Lakeland police. Currently, there is one police officer assigned to cover downtown.