Most serious types of crime in Sarasota County down 54% since 2009, latest Sheriff’s Office Annual Report says

Document offers wide array of data about department operations

This is the cover of the 2020 Annual Report. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

The most serious types of crimes are down 54% in Sarasota County since 2009, Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman pointed out in the department’s 2020 Annual Report, released last week.

Those are cases involving force or the threat of force, the FBI explains on its website.

“In 2020,” the Sheriff’s Office report says, “a total of 6,316 people were booked into the Sarasota County Correctional Facility,” though several were arrested more than once. Therefore, the report notes, the total number of arrests processed last year was 8,379.

Of those, it adds, 4,770 were felony arrests.

Further, department personnel handled 357 out-of-county warrants and 46 civil arrests, the report says.

Among other data, the report notes that “Sarasota County ranks in the top 25 counties in Florida for traffic crashes resulting in serious and fatal injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists …” As a result, it adds, “[O]ur Traffic Unit makes safety their number one priority.”

Once again in 2020, the Traffic Unit applied for and received funding “for a High Visibility Enforcement (HVE) initiative focused specifically on pedestrian and bicycle safety.”

From January through December 2020, the report continues, members of the Traffic Unit worked 1,107 hours, issued 190 warnings and 932 citations, and engaged in 2,352 educational opportunities to make conditions safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.

“Another primary responsibility of the Traffic Unit is to detect motorists who are driving while impaired,” the report points out. In 2020, it says, “[D]eputies made 669 arrests for Driving Under the Influence and issued 18,409 traffic citations.”

These are the members of the Sheriff’s Office’s leadership team. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

Additionally, one of the most popular divisions of the Sheriff’s Office — the Mounted Patrol Unit — continues to provide more service to the community, the report notes.

“In 2009,” it says, “when Sarasota County’s population was 389,320, the Mounted Patrol Unit responded to 919 calls for service. Only eight years later in 2017,” the report continues, “when the county’s population grew to 414,899, the unit responded to a total of 4,324 calls for service.”

In 2020, the report adds, officers spent 3,970 hours working on horseback and spent 1,935 hours of training on horseback.

As a result of the growth in demand for the unit’s work, the Sheriff’s Office in May 2018 “secured a contractor to build [a] new Mounted Patrol Barn,” the report points out. That facility, which was completed in February 2020, can withstand winds up to 150 mph.

These are the newest members of the Mounted Patrol (right). Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

The Mounted Patrol Unit has eight horses, two full-time deputies, four part-time deputies and one barn technician, the report says. The newest equine members of the unit are Special, Colonel and Sabre, who joined the team last year, the report adds.

Yet another new building that opened in 2020 was the Sheriff Tom Knight Support Services Facility in Nokomis, which has 12 maintenance bays, six radio shop bays, administrative areas, combined training and break room space and a fitness center, the report says. “The current fleet consists of more than 550 vehicles and another 100 pieces of equipment including trailers, motorcycles, ATVs [all-terrain vehicles], command posts and more,” the report notes.

“On average, agency members drive more than 6.5 million miles per year and utilize around 403,000 gallons of fuel annually,” the report points out.

For nearly four decades prior to the Oct. 15, 2020 opening of Support Services Facility, the report says, the Fleet Services Section operated out of a county-owned structure on Old Venice Road in Osprey.

Just before Sheriff Knight retired last year, the County Commission unanimously approved a motion to name the new facility in his honor, the report notes.

This is a view of the interior of part of the Fleet Services Facility in Nokomis. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

Emergency Operations, Animal Services and court services

Another section of the report focuses on the Emergency Operations Bureau, which “oversees the Public Safety Communications (PSC) center, a multi-agency center that provides full dispatch for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Sarasota County Fire Department, Nokomis Fire Department, Venice Fire Department, Venice Police Department, North Port Fire Department, Englewood Fire Department, Longboat Key Fire Department, Longboat Key Police Department, Sarasota County Schools Police Department, and Sarasota Police Department.”

Altogether, the report says, 116 employees are assigned to the PSC. In 2020, the center received 664,376 emergency (911) and non-emergency calls.

In regard to Animal Services: The report points out that that “integral part of the Law Enforcement Division” has 36 full-time members and “provides round-the-clock service and care to thousands of Sarasota County animals.”

This feline relaxes at Animal Services. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

In 2020, the report continues, 301 animals brought to Animal Services were adopted, 963 were transferred to rescue groups and other facilities, and 776 “‘lost’ animals were returned” to their owners.

In regard to the Sheriff’s Office’s service to the 12th Judicial Circuit Court, the report points out that officers ensure that no weapons are brought in through building checkpoints, and they maintain order in the courtrooms. “In 2020,” the report says, “court deputies welcomed 120,237 people into these facilities,” but deputies also had to confiscate 1,687 knives, razors, firearms and chemical weapons. “In 2020,” the report adds, “court deputies made 46 arrests.”

The department’s Aviation Unit — with two helicopters — had 3,213 calls for service in 2020, it recorded 792.6 flight hours, and it provided 396 assists to other agencies, the report says.

The Sheriff’s Office has 995 authorized positions, the report points out: 439 sworn law enforcement officers, 207 correctional officers, and 349 civilian support staff. “The gender breakdown is 616 men and 358 women.”

“Of the 338 applications received in 2020,” the report adds, “the agency hired 68 people to fill open positions or replace those who left or retired throughout the year.”

Further, the report notes the 2020 employees of the year: Law Enforcement Deputy of the Year — Det. Lyle Kenney; Civilian Employee of the Year — Animal Services Officer Brian Devlin; Courts & Corrections Deputy of the Year — Court Services Deputy Neftali Santos; and Quality Assurance of the Year Award winner — Communications Operator Sondra McCoy.

Finally, the report addresses the department’s social media engagement, including regular series such as “Traffic Tip Tuesday” and “Fugitive Friday.”

In 2020, it adds, the department recorded 12.1 million Facebook impressions — which refers to the number of people looking at department Facebook posts — and 2.6 million Twitter impressions.

Since 2010, the report says, Sheriff’s Office YouTube videos have had 3 million views.

“By all accounts,” Sheriff Hoffman wrote in the introductory letter, “we are staying at the top of the list of Florida’s 67 sheriff’s offices in terms of safety and innovation.”