Posted by: Martin Scherer | 19/04/2011

Sarasota has a dangerous neighbourhood?

“This dangerous neighbourhood,” British news reports. Is that true?

I am a Brit. Whilst in the US, I live less than five miles from that neighbourhood. I travel through it at least twice a week and sometimes by night. I’ve met people who live in that neighbourhood and given work to a couple. I’ve attended an all black church and found it a wonderful gospel experience. I have never felt threatened. I’ve never seen any threatening behaviour. In any of the ten years I’ve lived there.

In fact, I feel safer in Sarasota than I do in many cities in the UK. So safe, I forget to lock house doors, I’ve even mistakenly left the garage open all day and returned to find nothing missing. Sometimes I forget to take keys out of cars or remove valuables from the car. Mine is an open top car. I wouldn’t risk that in most British cities.

I know the local residents are more diligent about crime than most British neighbourhoods. I’ve met the Sarasota Police Chief I now see on British news – Mikel Holloway, a black guy, and found him to be an intelligent and reassuring officer. Much like everyone I’ve had the privilege to meet in Sarasota.

So what was going on?

What were two experienced travellers doing at 3.00 am walking down a residential road, and according to some residents – drunk, disorderly, and banging on cars?

Regrettably, such behaviours are commonplace in the UK cities, in the early hours following a Friday night. But not in Sarasota. By 10 pm in Sarasota, most Americans are going to bed. Streets are empty. Few nightclubs are open after midnight. I’ve never seen anyone drunk and disorderedly in any part Sarasota. In my home UK town, I see it all too frequently. Young people binge drinking, fighting, vomiting, and even urinating in the street. Regrettably, some British tourists are renowned for taking such deplorable behaviour on holiday and imposing it on local people. Sometimes they literally go looking for trouble. Consequently, I often keep away from British tourists whilst I travel. But not in Sarasota. The British in Sarasota, are more typical of the majority of Brits – decent respectful people, just like the vast majority of people in Sarasota and Newtown.

I have no wish to cast aspersions on two guys who have lost their lives. I feel for the loss their relatives and loved ones now endure, and no one can justify killing another. Like Sarasota Mayor, I believe everyone has the right to feel safe at all times in every part of every city.

I have seen guns in Sarasota and every part of the US, not on the streets but in the houses of respectable white middle class residents. Visiting British friends are shocked to discover you can buy a gun in Wal-Mart. No Brit can be ignorant of the fact that Americans hold the right to own guns. If people go around drunk, disorderly, and creating disturbance, then they can expect to provoke someone. In a country where guns are commonly owned, two ‘experienced’ travellers might expect someone might shoot them.

This shooting is troubling for everyone, but as usual, the picture created by the news media is wrong. Sarasota is a very safe place. The Newtown district is safer than many similar districts in many British cities.

Martin Scherer



  1. There is no excuse for killing someone who’s only sin is disturbing the peace. There is 911. There is a direct line to the police department. There is even a confrontation. Most drunks are harmless although stupid and will stop the nonsense. As for tourists in a strange neighborhod in a strange city-be aware. Unfortunately, there are neighborhods in just about every American city where you must exercise caution. Is the Newton area one of those, well two strangers have just found out.

  2. I can’t believe this author uses this story to push “gun control” arguments. Fact is, that guns are supposed to be for SELF-DEFENSE only. I have a hard time believing that two drunk British tourists so “provoked” the gunman that he felt he had to use self-defense to save his life. Victoria, who states above is 100% correct:

    “There is no excuse for killing someone who’s only sin is disturbing the peace. There is 911. There is a direct line to the police department. There is even a confrontation. Most drunks are harmless although stupid and will stop the nonsense.”

    Note to Martin: “respectable white middle class residents” are forced to own guns for self-defense precisely because the perp/killer in this case is all too typical, all too willing to use his ILLEGAL gun offensively. Yeah, and the killer was black. That’s statistically the case in most of these types of occurrences, like it or not people reading this, that’s the case, and it’s why white middle class people own guns: self-defense from thuggery

  3. I too live in the area. While I would not go walking in Newtown at night or any other time, it is only because I would feel uncomfortable being in the minority. The neighborhood is mostly black and hispanic, with only a few whites living there. I would not feel endangered, but I would feel uncomfortable.

    The real mystery here is how these two young men came to be in this neighborhhod. It is a few miles from the nightclub they were in and it was in a completely opposite direction of their resorts location from the nightclub. Why didn’t they catch a cab home? How did they get to the club? So many questions and no logical answers. There have been allegations that they were set up, given a ride to be held up by masked gunmen? Why would they leave with someone who would take them to this neighborhood? Would it not have been more natural for a girl to give them a ride home? Or for them to grab a cab? Some vital information is missing in this whole mess.

    As to the suspect, I haven’t even read a report as to why he was arrested, why he is the suspect. A black sixteen year old who was good at football but not very smart. So he dropped out of school because he felt embarassed of his lack of understanding. A year later he shoots two unarmed white men he doesn’t even know? Why? Is this a rush to convict because of the international uproar? The media has NOTHING, no information as to why this boy was charged. The police have not said if he was found in possesion of the weapon, if he was in the area, if he was tested for gunpowder residue. Did he act alone? If so, how did HE manage to get them to Newtown? Over twenty casings were found, sounds like more than one gun. What happened the night two tourists were murdered?

    Not a peep from the law enforcement investigators, or anyone else. Again, I must ask WHY?

    That is the mystery. Why did this happen?

  4. The kid was released 8 days before this shooting on gun related charges. He was released because our system here is broke. It is still not clear why the young men were in that area. Newtown is not a hangout for young white tourists. I tried to find an article in the Sarasota Herald Tribune about the prosecuter of the case resigning but it has been deleted from the files. HUMMM?

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