DUNEDIN – Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri presented a quarterly update to the Dunedin City Commission at its Jan. 24 meeting regarding the state of the city, praising efforts and positive results regarding Southside Dunedin in fighting crime that bleeds over from the North Greenwood and Gateway areas of Clearwater.
Gualtieri said one of the most effective initiatives has been the addition of a community-policing deputy in the South Dunedin area south of Union Street and north of Sunset Point Road and in that unincorporated area. He added that there are a lot of efforts going on down there, and some the residents will see but others they will not, but he wants the public to know that they still are happening.
“I can tell you that we do have in the south side of the city … some significant undercover law enforcement activity going on,” Gualtieri said. “So those that are out there selling drugs and doing things they shouldn’t be doing, think about it because the person you are involved with may be working on behalf of a law enforcement officer or may be a law enforcement officer themselves. We do that a lot in different parts of the county and we are doing it here in Dunedin.”
Other law enforcement efforts have paid off, too, he said, and has visible impact on how safe the city is. Between October and December 2012, there was a 60 percent decrease in the number of residential burglaries.
“We had a 60 percent decrease in the number of batteries, which is when someone hits someone else, usually in disturbances and fights, those kinds of things,” Gualtieri said. “We had a 68 percent decrease in the number of thefts and a 42 percent increase – which is a good thing – in the number of arrests. And we’ve had a lot more directed patrols, which is when the deputies go down and spend a time and a concerted effort in patrols and stopping people that they see. And that is a cause and effect in the increase of arrests.”
Another thing the deputies do is to stop and talk to people, he said, in field interviews. This is documented and if there is an incident, then the Sheriff’s Office can go back and try to determine who was involved, and they have increased those by 10.5 percent, he said.
Traffic is always a concern, and there was a 42.9 percent decrease in the number of crashes in Dunedin in the last quarter, Gualtieri said, and there were 218 citations and 624 warnings issued. A few years ago, the traffic enforcement model was changed, and he knows that the city was concerned, wanting to make sure it was the best method possible.
“I think I can say that we’ve accomplished that together in our partnership,” Gualtieri said.
Between 2010 and 2012, the number of crashes has decreased by 6 percent, Gualtieri said, so he said that is a tribute to the change of the model and its effectiveness in safety. In 2012 alone, deputies conducted 11,500 traffic stops, he said, which is an average of about 31 cars stopped a day.
The commission appreciated the update and also that Gualtieri himself had taken the time to come out personally to present the data. Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski thanked him for the presentation and requested that the Sheriff’s office continues to keep the commission apprised on the situation in Southside, even if it is not the main focus of each presentation.