‘All hands on deck:’ Volusia deputies start new role patrolling beaches

A new law means the sheriff’s office will take over patrolling beaches

The Volusia County Sheriff's Office takes over patrol on Volusia County beaches just in time for the busy Memorial Day Weekend.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – There was a big shift Friday in who patrols the beach in Volusia County. Just the day before, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law that took immediate effect that says all unincorporated areas in a county now fall under the sheriff’s office.

By Friday, the sheriff’s office had its mobile command center set up at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, ready to take on Memorial Day crowds and a possible unsanctioned event coming to Daytona Beach this weekend.

Sheriff Mike Chitwood said while this law just took effect, they’ve actually been preparing for weeks.

“We’ve been actually out here boots on the ground since May 1. I believe Mother’s Day was a test run for us,” he said.

Now, he said with all new equipment, they’re ready to take on the first official weekend patrolling the 47 miles of Volusia’s beaches.

“It’s all hands on deck not only for the sheriff’s office but the cities as well, so you’ll probably see when you’re up here more cops than you’ve ever seen before,” he said.

As part of the county’s preparations, it gave the 58 former beach patrol officers the option to come on as deputies at their current rank on beach patrol or stay with beach safety as full-time lifeguards and EMTs.

Seventeen went to the sheriff’s office.

“One of the things I’m excited about with the additional manpower is that I want to get out on the rivers more and the lakes,” said Chitwood.

The beach officers were also lifeguards and EMTs.

It’s a cut for the Volusia Beach Safety team who was already dealing with a national lifeguard shortage.

“We’ve got that really rough surf right now poking holes in the sandbars which causes rip currents. We’ve had to rescue about 160 people out of the water since last Friday,” said Beach Safety Deputy Chief Tammy Malphurs.

She said luckily, with the almost 40 former officers staying on and guards coming home from college now, they’re almost fully staffed ahead of the weekend.

“You’ll still see our lifeguards in the trucks, on the ATVs, we will have rescue skis out there, we have a rescue boat. Our lifeguards will still be in those vehicles responding to medical emergencies and water rescues,” she said.

The sheriff said on top of uniformed deputies, there will also be deputies on the beach in plain clothes this weekend. He thinks it’s especially important during these busy holiday weekends to target crimes like theft.

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Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.