Sumter Co. sheriff wants more deputies on patrol at the Villages

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SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. - Huge growth at the Villages in Sumter County has the sheriff's office asking for more resources even though the senior community is hardly known for crime.

The sheriff said it's a matter of keeping pace with the population to keep folks safe.

Construction crews are constantly at work in the Villages, building new homes and subdivisions.

"Like mushrooms. Overnight mushrooms. Just keeps growing, and it's beautiful. Every area is beautiful. It's clean, you feel safe here," one resident told Channel 9.

Sumter County Sheriff's deputies said they want more deputies on patrol. They're asking for 18 new patrol deputies over the next three years, with 10 being hired right away, a 10 percent increase in the size of the patrol force.

"The growth in the Villages and the rest of the county also demands law enforcement," said Maj. Gary Brannan of the Sumter County Sheriff's Office.

But the expansion comes as the county's been cutting back. County EMS has been outsourced, and even libraries in the Villages are privatized.

Public safety, the sheriff's office has argued, simply has to keep pace with population, even if crime is down and there is rarely anything but nonviolent crime in the Villages.

Still, with so many people in one place, there's a potential for problems, Brannan said.

"And let's face it, it's a senior population up there, and a lot of criminals thrive on seniors, trying to victimize them. And that's what we're hoping to prevent," he said.

The Sumter County Commission has tentatively approved more than $1 million to get the first 10 deputies hired, trained and equipped for duty.