As we begin the New Year, I would like to thank the citizens of Pinellas County for their overwhelming support. I look forward to my second term as your Sheriff, and my staff and I have implemented many initiatives despite having faced some serious and unprecedented budget challenges along the way.
All of our programs and services have been scrutinized to determine their cost effectiveness and productivity. This analysis became especially important during the past year when it became clear that there would be a significant reduction in our budget even though our operating costs had increased. Through some reorganization, including the elimination of some positions and modification of services, we endured and we are now planning for the future.
It is anticipated that we will once again face budget cuts in the coming fiscal year; however, I am confident that our ongoing efforts to ensure efficiency will allow us meet the challenge ahead. Some of the initiatives aimed at saving money, while still providing superior service to our citizens, include improvements in some patrol operations, crime prevention programs, and the use of volunteers.
In the near future, 400 digital cameras will be issued to deputies on patrol as an enhancement to our facial recognition technology. The use of this technology in the field has not only led to the identification of criminal suspects, but it has also been used to identify crash victims who were incapacitated. The cameras were purchased with grant funds, and will also be used to document evidence in some investigations which will eliminate the need for a forensic specialist to respond when only photographs are required.
The addition of vans equipped to transport more than one prisoner at a time has reduced the number of individual trips made by deputies to the Pinellas County Jail. This not only saves fuel, but it allows deputies to spend more time on patrol and less time in transit between their assigned area and the jail. Additional patrol time has been saved by the addition of the Sheriff’s Citizen Patrol which is staffed by volunteers who are trained to handle specific tasks that do not require a deputy.
Other initiatives include the expansion of our youth diversion program and the reinstatement of our On-Track Program which is intended to reduce juvenile crime in our community. Deputies assigned to our Crime Prevention Unit have developed the very popular “Live Safe” program, which teaches adults how to keep their children safe from sex offenders.
These are just a few of the ways that my staff and I intend to provide the citizens of Pinellas County with professional service over the next four years. With our citizens as partners in this endeavor, our mission of “Leading The Way For A Safer Pinellas” will be accomplished.