ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - 9 Investigates learned the Orange County Sheriff’s Office needs to hire at least 100 additional deputies to cover the county.
Investigative reporter Karla Ray has been looking into the disproportionate workloads for deputies working in East Orange County for years. County leaders haven’t taken a hard look at patrol sectors based on population for about a decade, and East Orange County has seen a spike in population and housing communities, Ray learned.
Eyewitness News obtained a draft copy of a third-party consultant study that investigated sector lines and zoning. The study estimated Orange County needed approximately 24 additional deputies.
However, Sheriff John Mina said the number is closer to 100.
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The Sector map on the Sheriff’s Office website (https://www.ocso.com/Services/Operational-Services/Uniform-Patrol-Division) shows the disparity in coverage in East Orange County. Sector Two takes up half the space of the county, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there are more people patrolling the streets.
Sheriff’s Office officials declined a past request for an exact count of deputies working each sector at any given time, citing officer safety.
“We have amazing deputies in this area, and I know they try very hard,” resident Stephanie Chandrasekaran said. “I think this is a planning issue.”
Chandrasekaran is part of a group of residents that has been pushing for more patrols in the areas of Avalon Park, Waterford Lakes and communities east of Goldenrod Road for years as the population has boomed.
“I don't feel that I see patrols. I don't see that there's any proactive nature whatsoever in stopping crime,” Chandrasekaran said.
In 2017, 9 Investigates obtained a draft report from a consultant showing deputies who work in those areas cannot proactively patrol as much as those in other sectors, only using an average of 30% of their time engaging with people in the community outside of calls for service. It’s the lowest percentage anywhere in the county.
Mina admitted that shoring up Sector Two to even out coverage will require more hiring than initially thought.
“When it's all said and done, we need an additional 100 deputies,” Mina said.
Mina’s office will use the consultant’s report as part of an upcoming budget proposal. The firm recommended expanding patrol zones from 28 to more than 70 and redrawing sector lines to better distribute the workload. A request for a copy of the proposed sector lines has gone unanswered.
“That was one of the recommendations: to go to seven sectors, which would make the other six sectors smaller,” Mina said.
Mina said the staff changes will need to be done in phases, leaving Chandrasekaran concerned that by the time her area has enough coverage for its current population, it will have grown again.
“To know that they're undermanned is disheartening for me because I know they want to do more, but they can't,” Chandrasekaran said.
Despite the workloads being heavier in Sector Two, crime was down in that part of the county from 2017 to 2018.
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