Sheriff’s Office’s 2022 Annual Report offers insights into agency’s annual budget needs

Calls for service keep rising as county population increases

With the Sarasota County Commission’s annual, in-depth workshops on its proposed 2024 fiscal year budget scheduled for June 20-21 in Sarasota, the county’s constitutional officers likely are in the final stages of preparing their proposed spending plans for the new fiscal year.

Among them, Sheriff Kurt Hoffman is expected to have the largest budget, based on recent trends. A slide that the county’s Office of Financial Management included in the County Commission’s May 23 budget workshop packet showed that the Sheriff’s Office budget had climbed from $88,538,011 in the 2009 fiscal year to $151,439,707 in the current fiscal year — a 71% increase.

Both Hoffman and his predecessor, Sheriff Tom Knight, have emphasized that demands for service have risen as the county’s population has climbed.

Another slide in that May 23 budget workshop packet noted that the county population in 2009 was 377,360; in 2022, it was 452,378.

Yet, Hoffman will have a wealth of statistics from which to draw to make his case for whatever amount he ends up requesting for the 2024 fiscal year, which will begin on Oct. 1.

For example: The Sheriff’s Office’s 2022 Annual Report says officers handled 7,673 traffic crashes last year, issued 28,268 traffic citations, used 462,021 gallons of fuel and drove 6,326,704 miles. “With consistent population growth, development, and overall expansion,” the report explains, the Sheriff’s Office “is tasked with mitigating the concerns throughout the unincorporated areas of the county.”

The agency has four full-time traffic squads, the report notes; they operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.

That section of the report begins with this statement: “Traffic issues continue to rate high for the residents of Sarasota County.”

Another page in the report points out that the Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit — with two helicopters — logged 2,359 calls for service in 2022, along with 793 flight hours.

Officers with the Mounted Patrol spent 5,200 hours on horseback, the report adds, explaining, “Members of the Mounted Patrol Unit are often the most visible part of law enforcement operations. The unit comprises five horses, two full-time and five part-time riders, and a barn technician …” Not only does the Mounted Patrol participate in community events and parades, the report says, but it also conducts traffic enforcement and handles other responsibilities.

Another part of the report notes that, within the Sarasota County Detention Center — more commonly referred to as “the jail” — officers processed 9,268 arrests in 2022 and dealt with an average daily population of 997. More than 250 sworn and civilian members of the agency staff the Corrections Division, that page adds.

Another service the department provides is staffing for the courts. The relevant page in the 2022 report says officers handling court duty were involved in 13,800 first appearances of inmates and other hearings; they transported 564 inmates; they made 257 arrests; and they recovered 4,322 weapons. (Deputies man the security checkpoint in the Judge Lynn Silvertooth Judicial Center on Ringling Boulevard in downtown Sarasota.) They also greeted 195,202 visitors to the court facilities in 2022.

Among a smattering of other figures reflecting agency work, the report points out that staff members dealt with 18,016 items of evidence and other property that the agency received or had to process; investigated 1,185 economic crimes; handled 27,754 public records requests, not counting those from the news media; processed 3,312 controlled substances; and turned over 1,014 pounds of discarded prescriptions to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Yet another page in the 2022 Annual Report says that the Sheriff’s Office’s Homeless Outreach Team members logged 547 contacts and deputy referrals in 2022, and they recorded 937 case management follow-ups for individuals who made the decision to try to get off the streets.

Further, the Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 Unit deployed 1,298 times in 2022, and its officers went through 1,904 training hours.

Altogether, the agency in 2022 had 463 sworn law enforcement deputies, 210 sworn Corrections Division deputies, and 363 civilian members last year.

With the County Commission’s two days of June budget workshops still more than two weeks away, no schedule has been made public about which of the county’s constitutional officers will make their budget presentations on which days. Along with Hoffman, the constitutional officers are Karen Rushing, clerk of the Circuit Court and county comptroller; Ron Turner, supervisor of elections; Barbara Ford-Coates, tax collector; and Bill Furst, the property appraiser.