Sheriff enacts patrol changes
Published: Saturday, January 5, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 5, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.
The Alachua County Sheriff's Office has redrawn the zones deputies are assigned to patrol in hopes of improving call load distribution and working toward district policing.
"It has not been done for 20 years," Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell said about the analysis that led to the changes, which went into effect this week.
A review of the county's population and the call load prompted changes after the analysis showed one zone to the northwest of Gainesville accounted for 27 percent of calls to the Sheriff's Office.
"That's unfair to that deputy who's assigned there and to those who are in the adjacent zones because they were pulled out of their zones to help manage that call load," Darnell said.
The agency also found that the west side of the county had 80 percent of the call load.
With the redrawn zones, Darnell said the calls will be more equitably allocated and allow officers to remain in the zones where they are assigned.
"This is the first step toward district policing," Darnell said. "This is the first formal step in having deputies assigned consistently to the same zone or geographic area and to have that accountability attached to it."
The district policing concept, used by the Gainesville Police Department, calls for increasing officer involvement in neighborhoods and making officers more accountable for the areas where they are assigned.
The changes increased the number of zones from 10 to 11 and adjusted the outlines of some existing zones.
The borders of several zones west of downtown Gainesville and near Interstate 75 were adjusted, so that each area is accounting for 10 to 12 percent of the county's call load.
Jennifer Hagstrom, the project coordinator for call-load reallocation, said the new system should give officers more time to spend with residents on calls.
"You need somebody to have enough time to be able to say, 'I'm sorry that this has happened to you and everything you're feeling is perfectly normal and I'm going to do what I can to find out who did this and put a stop to it.'
"If I don't have the time to say that, you're not going to feel any better about the situation, even though you have reported it," she said.
Darnell said the agency also is changing how deputies call in by having them use their agency identification numbers and what zone they are working in.
The new system should make it easier for officers to identify who is working where in the county, the sheriff said.
Lise Fisher can be reached at 352-374-5092 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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