VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - A new year could mean new changes for Volusia County's beaches.
The Volusia County Beach Patrol has been a law enforcement agency of its own since the 1990s. Officers have special training in ocean rescue and life-saving techniques, but that system may be in for a change in the next year.
Incoming County Chairman Jason Davis said one of his first actions will be to find out if bringing Beach Patrol under the umbrella of the Sheriff's Office will save money. If so, he said he'll suggest handing over beach law enforcement to city police and Sheriff Ben Johnson.
"I think law enforcement needs to be law enforcement. If you're going to have someone on the beach doing something on the beach, they need to be a life guard or Medevac,” Davis said.
Sheriff Johnson has said in the past that consolidation could save more than a half million dollars and he'd be happy to oversee the new duties.
Davis also points to complaints from citizens that law enforcement presence is not needed on the beach unless a crime is reported.
"It's kind of militarized and there's really not that much crime on the beach. The amount of crime there can be handled by a local law enforcement point of view,” Davis said.
Davis said there is still work to be done, but he said it's time to reconsider having law enforcement do the job of lifeguards at a cost of more than $5 million.
The new Volusia County chairman will take office in about two weeks.
He said he will immediately direct county staff and the sheriff's office to crunch the numbers to see how much the county could save.
If there are no significant savings, Davis said he won't suggest any changes.