Florida Highway Safety is adding seven highway patrol officers to serve Pinellas County.
CLEARWATER – Florida Highway Safety is adding seven highway patrol officers to serve Pinellas County.
Sen. Jack Latvala said the increase in staffing is possible due to “successful efforts of lawmakers to secure funding for 28 additional state troopers in its $77 billion state budget for fiscal year 2014-2015.”
Additional highway patrol officers will be a great benefit to Pinellas County, where media reports last year described the impact that the shortage of state troopers was having on local law enforcement resources, Latvala said in a press release. To offset the shortage of state troopers, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has been using its own deputies for incidents occurring along state roads, even though those roads are outside of the county’s jurisdiction.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri outlined the problem during an in-depth overview of his department with Pinellas County Commissioners June 5, 2013. He said during 2012, the sheriff’s office assisted FHP 1,468 times, an average of 122 times a month. Each assist required an average of 2.3 people. The average time spent by deputies on an FHP assist was almost an hour and a half.
Gualtieri told commissioners that FHP was understaffed with inadequate resources and not enough troopers.
“Thanks to improving economic conditions and our commitment to a budget that prioritizes public safety, we were able to provide enough money in the budget for these much-needed highway patrol officers who will help keep our roads and residents safe,” Latvala said. “Being a highway patrol officer is a very dangerous job, and we need to provide a strong law enforcement presence in the areas where officers are needed most. I am especially pleased that seven of the 28 additional officers will be provided to Pinellas County. We worked very hard to make this happen.”
The additional troopers will allow for quicker response times for commuters and residents who find themselves stranded on the side of the road, waiting for help, Latvala said.
Gualtieri talked about that issue back in 2013.
“Local citizens don’t understand that when they see a deputy pass by as they wait two hours for FHP,” he said.
The sheriff welcomed the news of more troopers.
“The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office strives to make our communities safer every day,” Gualtieri said. “We appreciate Sen. Latvala’s efforts to help secure the funding needed to hire these additional law enforcement officers so that our county can be an even safer place to live and work.”