LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – The Lake County Sheriff's Office has hired four more deputies to help patrol the south end of the county and establish a new patrol zone to debut in April.
Officials told News 6 in the summer of 2017 the county commissioners approved a budgetary request of $2.2 million to help 6 new deputies. Four of those will work in Sector 3 which covers the south end of Leesburg to US Highway 192. This area includes five zones with the cities of Clermont, Groveland, Mascotte, Minneola and Mt. Verde. This area also includes the Four Corners area--the intersection of Orange, Osceola, Lake and Polk counties.
Currently, on a sector 3 shift, five deputies and two supervisors work to cover the five existing patrol zones with one deputy working solo in zone 16, including the Four Corners and calls for service volume has increased from last year.
"The guys are usually going call to call on a daily basis and sometimes they don't even get time to slow down or stop for lunch," Corporal Jason Dunlap said.
According to the Sheriff's Office, there were 6,551 more calls for Zone 15 and 16 in 2017 than there had been only six years prior. An increase in calls with fewer deputies correlates to response time taking longer.
"We take a lot longer to get to than we are used to," Cpl. Dunlap said. "It could be a matter of life and death," Corporal Dunlap said.
In April when the new patrol zone 17 is created from existing zone 15 and 16, it will add one more deputy on each shift to respond to calls in the area.
As the population and development have increased in the south end of the county deputies believe this correlates to the increase in crime.
"I think it's definitely a step in the right direction, we need more deputies on the south end to assist to getting to the calls in a timely manner and do so safely," Cpl. Dunlap said.
According to Florida Department of Law Enforcement's semi-annual report in Lake County, there has been a 4-percent increase in crimes reported in Jan. 1 to Jan 30 in 2017 compared to the same time frame in 2016.
"That would definitely help out a little bit for us - the more we can get the better, I would even think more zones would be better down the road," Cpl. Dunlap said.