Major crimes down 3% from 2016 to 2017, Sheriff’s Office reports, with violent crime having dropped 37.57% since Sheriff Knight took over in 2009

2017 Annual Report offers details about responses to opioid abuse crisis and Hurricane Irma

(From left) The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office senior personnel in 2017 are Major Jon Goetluck, Col. Kurt A. Hoffman, Sheriff Tom Knight, Major Paul Richard and Major Jeff Bell. Bell recently retired after a decades-long career of leading the Courts and Corrections Division. Major Brian Meinberg has taken Bell’s place. Image courtesy Sheriff’s Office

Major crimes — known as Part I Offenses in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Index — declined 3.01% in Sarasota County from 2016 to 2017, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has announced in its 2017 Annual Report.

The total number of crimes was down 2.59% year-over-year, the report says.

Since Sheriff Tom Knight took office in 2009, the report points out, violent crime in the county has dropped 37.57% and Part I Offenses are down 48.56%.

In 2017, 16 more violent crimes were recorded than in 2016, the report says, but the number countywide “remains low,” with a total of 467.

Burglary cases declined 6.91% year-over-year, the report notes.

Among all the data and narratives in the report, one set of statistics underscores the fact that the Sheriff’s Office — like so many other agencies in the state and nation — is battling “drug use, abuse, and addiction,” as the report puts it.

The report includes these statistics related to the opioid epidemic. Image courtesy Sheriff’s Office

Sheriff’s Office personnel in 2017 investigated 247 opioid overdoes and used naloxone in 62 cases, saving 59 lives, the report adds. “Naloxone is a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose,” the National Institute of Drug Abuse explains. “It can very quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain medications,” the institute adds.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office was the first in the state to equip deputies with naloxone and to create addiction recovery pods in the county jail, the 2017 Annual Report points out. Since December 2015, the report says, deputies have given naloxone to 123 people.

In a related note, the report says Sheriff’s Office staff processed 1,315 drugs in the agency’s lab in 2017 and found 23% of them contained heroin, fentanyl or a derivative of those drugs.

The office has made arrests of dealers in the county a priority “while balancing the notion that arresting addicts will not solve the problem,” the report explains. “Following each overdose,” it continues, “detectives exhaustively investigate the incident as a possible crime related to culpable negligence, manslaughter, or murder.” Additionally, the report notes, “Special Investigation detectives conduct regular undercover purchases and execute search warrants that lead to arrests and seizures of drugs.”

Arrests, dispatch and Animal Services

A graphic provides statistics for the Law Enforcement Division. Image courtesy Sheriff’s Office

Among other statistics, the report notes that officers “processed a total of 12,043 arrests in 2017.”

The report offers the following breakdown.

  • 6,052 felony arrests.
  • 5,792 misdemeanor arrests.
  • 609 arrests for Driving Under the Influence.
  • 172 civil arrests.

Deputies also issued 33,687 traffic citations, the report says.

Regarding the Public Safety Communications Center’s operations, the report points out that the 110 employees assigned to that facility received a total of 652,575 calls to 911 and the non-emergency number in 2017.

During the height of concern about Hurricane Irma — from 7 a.m. on Sept. 8, 2017 to 7 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2017 — personnel answered 13,514 emergency and non-emergency calls, the report points out.

Moreover, from Sept. 9, 2017 through Sept. 11, 2017, the report adds, more than 950 Sheriff’s Office members worked a total of 21,590 man-hours related to the storm.

All 911 dispatchers and call-takers must have a minimum of 240 hours of classroom instruction before they are certified to answer calls, the report explains.

The Public Safety Communications Center is part of the Emergency Operations Bureau, the report notes. Personnel handle full dispatch services for the Sheriff’s Office, the Sarasota County Fire Department, the Nokomis Fire Department, the Venice Police Department, the Venice Fire Department, the North Port Fire Department, the Englewood Fire Department, the Longboat Key Fire Department, the Longboat Key Police Department and the Sarasota Police Department.

Yet one other division of the Sheriff’s Office is Animal Services. In 2017, the report says, 395 animals were adopted; 849 were transferred to rescue and other facilities; and 842 “lost” animals were reunited with their owners.

A new facility

The new Sheriff’s Office headquarters stands at 6010 Cattleridge Blvd. in Sarasota. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Among other notable events for the agency in 2017, more than 200 of the staff members moved from multiple locations throughout the county “to a consolidated facility on Cattleridge Boulevard in Sarasota,” the report says. “After more than 30 years at the Criminal Justice Center in downtown [Sarasota], the majority of the workforce began relocating in September; a moving process that spanned approximately three months,” the report adds.

Located at 6010 Cattleridge Blvd., the 74,000-square-foot building has room for nearly 60% of the Sheriff’s Office’s workforce. Along with administrative personnel, the structure houses property and evidence related to cases and the agency’s drug lab, the report points out.

The County Commission invested about $19 million in the facility, based on expenses the county’s General Services Department staff reported last summer.

During the board’s July 12, 2017 meeting, Bill Spitler, director of research and planning for the Sheriff’s Office, pointed out that the commission previously had estimated spending $101 million on a new administrative facility for the agency next to the county’s Emergency Operations Center on Cattlemen Road.

The report also includes details about an initiative county commissioners have lauded: the Sheriff’s Offender Work Program. Image courtesy Sheriff’s Office

Additionally, the 2017 report notes, Sheriff Knight announced during a Dec. 9, 2017 open house for community residents and visitors that the Cattleridge facility had been designated a Safe Place: a universally recognized, trusted site where children and young people who need help can go for assistance. That designation made the new headquarters the 134th Safe Place in Sarasota County, the report adds.

The Sheriff’s Office has 973 authorized positions, the report points out: 423 sworn law enforcement officers, 202 correctional officers and 348 civilian support staff members. “The gender breakdown is 607 men and 342 women,” the report notes.

The agency’s budget for the 2017 fiscal year was $108,267,443, the report says, with salaries and related expenses comprising 82% of the total. However, the report points out, the agency’s costs averaged out to $362 per 1,000 Sarasota County residents, which was “well below the state average of $438.”

“I strongly believe our progressive policing methods are part of what makes this community such a premier place to work and live,” said Sheriff Tom Knight in conjunction with the release of the report. “So much happens behind the scenes and this annual report gives us the opportunity to show our citizens both how we practice contemporary policing and why it’s so successful here in Sarasota County,” he emphasized in a news release.

To view or download a copy of the 2017 Annual Report visit Then, under the “News & Publications” tab, click “Notices & Publications.” Printed copies will be available in coming weeks at the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office locations in Sarasota and Venice, the release adds.