Sheriff’s Office issues about 7.5% fewer citations in 2023 than in 2022, annual report shows

Crash investigations also down

This is one of the graphics in the 2023 annual report. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

In 2023, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office issued 26,168 citations, the agency noted in its annual report for that year, which was released in March.

The 2023 total is down approximately 7.5%, compared to the 28,268 reported for 2022.

Because of the agency’s longstanding focus on preventing crimes, Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman told the Sarasota County Commission in June 2023, the total number of what the FBI used to classify as “Part 1 crimes” — the most serious incidents, including murder, rape, aggravated assault and vehicle theft — was down 56% since the 2009 fiscal year.

This is a graphic that Sheriff Kurt Hoffman and his team showed the County Commission during a June 2023 budget workshop. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

The Traffic Unit in 2023 handled 3,144 crash investigations and 748 DUI arrests, the new annual report shows. Altogether, though, the report points out, the agency dealt with 6,559 traffic crash investigations, a number approximately 15% lower than the 2022 total of 7,673.

Both Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman and his predecessor, Sheriff Tom Knight, have explained to the Sarasota County Commission that the agency prefers to have the Florida Highway Patrol investigate incidents involving fatalities, as it generally takes so much longer to deal with those accidents, taking patrol units out of operation for extended periods.

However, Hoffman and Knight also have emphasized their unwillingness to see members of the public suffer long waits for the Highway Patrol to arrive at a crash scene. Thus, the Sheriff’s Office often will deal with incidents, to ensure that persons involved in them experience faster assistance.

Among other details in the 2023 Annual Report are the following:

  • The Emergency Operations Center fielded 709,769 calls, of which 298,717 were related to emergencies.
  • The Sheriff’s Office investigated 1,222 fraud-related cases.
  • The Mounted Patrol Unit received 1,100 calls for service, resulting in 40 arrests. That figure was less than half of the 2,359 recorded in 2022.
  • The K9 Unit recorded 2,171 deployments, which was up 67%, compared to the 1,298 total in 2022.
  • The Aviation Unit recorded 2,200 calls for service, participated in 376 assists to other agencies, and logged 689 flight hours. In 2022, that unit received 2,359 calls for service and logged 793 flight hours. Additionally, in 2023, the Aviation Unit dropped 12,850 gallons of water for fire suppression, the new report says.
This is another graphic in the 2023 report. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

The Sheriff’s Office has a 2005 Bell 407 helicopter and a 2012 Bell 407 GX helicopter, the 2023 report points out. Both are “equipped with a wide variety of enhancements, including forward-looking infrared [FLIR]” equipment, the 2023 report adds.

  • Sheriff’s Office personnel drove 6,750,730 miles and used 582,649 gallons of fuel. The comparable figures in the 2022 report were 6,326,704 miles and 462,021 gallons of fuel.
  • The Animal Services Unit saw 281 animals adopted, and its volunteers put in 8,832 hours.
  • The Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) recorded 382 contacts, which was down almost 30%, compared to the 2022 total of 547. In 2023, the HOT also had 783 case management follow-ups; in 2022, the figure was 937.
  • The Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) recorded 44 activations in 2023, the Underwater Recovery Force logged five deployments, and the Hostage Negotiation Team reported two deployments.
  • The Marine Unit, which has four vessels, recorded 132 calls for service, issued 458 warnings, performed 282 safety checks and provided 116 assists to other agencies.
  • The Fugitive Apprehension Unit made 478 arrests and handled 86 extraditions.
  • Altogether, 18,323 items of property and evidence were received.
  • The number of positive identifications made by the Forensic Identification Unit was 919.
  • Officers destroyed 783.95 pounds of prescription medications dropped off by the public.

The section of the 2023 Annual Report focused on the Courts and Corrections Division provides the following data:

  • 10,143 arrests were processed.
  • 45 arrests were made at the county’s courthouses.
  • 5,876 weapons were recovered from the courthouses in the county, where the public has to pass through metal detectors before heading to courtrooms for hearings.
  • 17,617 civil processes were served.
  • 341,131 visitors to the courthouses were recorded.

The report also pointed out that the average daily population in the jail was 1,022, which is higher than the 836 total for which the jail was designed. In response to that situation, the County Commission in late January agreed to authorize county administrative and other staff members to move forward with planning for a 2026 voter referendum on the necessary funding for a new correctional facility in downtown Sarasota and renovation of the West Wing of the jail, which is the oldest section of the detention center. The total expense for those projects was estimated at nearly $150 million.

The referendum is necessary because Section 5.2D of the Sarasota County Charter limits how much money the county can issue in bonds without a vote of citizens.

In 2023, the Sheriff’s Office also handled 30,579 public records requests, not counting those filed by members of the news media. The total for 2022 — not including the news media requests — was 27,754.

The report pointed out that the Sheriff’s Office’s adopted budget for the 2023 fiscal year — which began on Oct. 1, 2023 — was $151,962,490. Of that amount, $120,506,783 was allocated to personnel services, while $26,140,843 went to operating expenses.

Altogether, in 2023, the report noted, the agency had 486 sworn law enforcement deputies, 210 sworn corrections deputies and 365 civilian members. In 2022, the number of sworn corrections officers was the same, but the Sheriff’s Office had 23 fewer deputies — 463 — and two fewer civilian members — 363.

In a message to the public, Sheriff Hoffman wrote in the report, “Sarasota County’s growth is not just felt in our new developments and roadways — it is illustrative within our agency. As the community grows, so does our agency. Each year, with the support of our community and the County Commission, we expand our footprint, abilities, and personnel.”
He added, “We learn from our challenges and consistently review best-practiced methods to provide you with community-oriented law enforcement services, as evidenced by our recent decision to re-open our south county office.”

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