Sheriff's office takes over AP policing
Marc Valero | Highlands TodayAVON PARK - It's official.
Published: October 2, 2012
Published: October 2, 2012
The Highlands County Sheriff's Office is now policing Avon Park.
Sheriff Susan Benton, Avon Park Administrative Services Director Maria Sutherland and Avon Park Police Cmdr. Jason Lister discussed some of the minor details of the transition Monday at the now former Avon Park Police Department building, which is being transformed into the sheriff's office's north division headquarters.
Benton noted she saw a sheriff's office car parked at Avon Park Middle School this morning when she drove into town.
All the Avon Park Police Department's case numbers have been assigned Highlands County Sheriff's Office case numbers, she said. Deputies in green uniforms, instead of blue, started responding to calls.
For the past month, no new cases have been assigned to Avon Park Police detectives, Benton said. Sheriff's Detective Lt. Darin Hood has been assisting the Avon Park police detectives in closing out as many of their cases as they can so that the detectives can be ready to merge with the sheriff's office.
The sheriff's office's coverage maps changed Monday, Benton noted, and the dividing line between the sheriff's office's north and south divisions has moved north from U.S. 98/State Road 66 to Schumacher Road/Sebring Parkway.
Uniformed Patrol Captain Randy Labelle will work from the north division headquarters, which will be open to serve the public 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Benton noted that now if somebody in Avon Park Lakes or Sun 'n Lake or anybody in the north end of the county needs a public record they will be able to come to the north division headquarters instead of going to the sheriff's office in Sebring.
Sutherland said many people don't realize that the level of law enforcement service will remain in Avon Park.
Benton said the city had two patrolmen and a sergeant on patrol duty. Now the city will have two deputies who will be supervised by a sheriff's department sergeant.
City residents basically have double the coverage that the county residents do, but they are paying for that added coverage, she said.
Benton said there is a big misconception.
"There is still an Avon Park Police Department," she said. The department has three positions, with one of the positions currently vacant. Cmdr. Lister and Sgt. Brian Robinson remain on the police force and are headquartered at the city's airport terminal building.
The sheriff's office has hired 15 Avon Park police officers, who will be sworn-in as deputy sheriff's Wednesday at the Highlands County Courthouse.
Benton explained that the city had 22 police officers and the city retained three positions for its community police/code enforcement department.
That left 19 officers without a job and the sheriff's office planned to hire 16 deputies, Benton said. So that meant there were three that potentially would not have a job.
But, the sheriff's office decided to try to have a position for everybody, she said.
One officer did not apply. One officer left the police department during the sheriff's office's background investigation and two were not hired, Benton said.
Ray Cuencas, owner of Ray's Laundromat on Main Street, said he is glad to see sheriff's office taking over the policing in the city.
"We need to save all the money we can save," he said. "It's all over the world, it is not just Avon Park; our societies cannot afford paying these people's pension anymore. We just can't."
Avon Park residents Bob Daniels and John Haas are also happy to see the sheriff's office in the city.
"I think it is going to save the city some money," Daniels said. "I have heard conflicting stories; some people do like it, some people don't; personally I am in favor of it."
Haas said, "I feel safer with the sheriff's department."
City Manger Julian Deleon has estimated that the city will save $2.7 million during the four-year contract with the sheriff's office.
email@example.com (863) 386-5826