Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas sheriff says school resource officers are stretched thin

LARGO — As Pinellas School Board members began discussing the broad topic of how to reduce violence in schools, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri quickly focused the conversation on one concrete point: dollars.

Gualtieri, one of the people invited to come speak to the board, said the number of deputies in Pinellas schools has dropped sharply over a five-year period, but arrests in middle school and high school have gone up.

He cited these figures at a School Board work session on Tuesday:

In the 2007-08 academic year, the Sheriff's Office sent 33 deputies to 23 schools to work as resource officers. Resource officers get to know students and teachers and gather intelligence that can help them stop violence before it happens.

But by 2011-12, the Sheriff's Office had 13 deputies for 11 schools.

In that time, Gualtieri said, high school arrests went from 188 to 240.

In middle schools, the increase was even higher, with arrests going from 58 to 137.

"The biggest one was Dunedin Middle School," Gualtieri said, with an increase of 11 arrests to 59.

With fewer deputies at fewer schools in the sheriff's jurisdiction, the resource officers have less time to form the kinds of relationships they need to get tips about violence that may be brewing in schools.

He stressed that his staff does a great job, but said, "the deputies feel like they're stretched too thin."

Gualtieri said his cost for providing the deputies is $839,644. The School Board pays his office $591,000.

"I can't put any more resources that we absorb the costs of into the schools. I mean we're already paying more than what the School Board is paying, by almost a quarter of a million dollars."

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and Police Chief Chuck Harmon also spoke to the School Board and agreed funding is an issue, but stressed their commitment to do everything possible to keep schools safe.

School Board members, who were meeting in a work session and not debating any formal proposals, said a lot of good things about the sheriff's resource officers, as well as others provided by the St. Petersburg Police and other agencies, and the school system's own officers.

But not one of them pledged to give more money to the Sheriff's Office, citing lean budgets. They did say it would be discussed in the regular budget process.

The board also heard Clearwater High School Principal Keith Mastorides describe what everyone agreed was a success story: the school and police response to an incident last month in which a 15-year-old student brought a gun onto campus.

"We had the campus locked down within 30 seconds," even though it was lunchtime, the most difficult time to secure a busy school, Mastorides said. Within nine minutes, he said, the lockdown was over and the weapon had been found. And no one was hurt.

Pinellas sheriff says school resource officers are stretched thin 10/09/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 11:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Once 'angry' about Obamacare, Republican David Jolly came to see it as 'safety net'

    Blogs

    Former Congressman David Jolly, who ran against Obamacare in 2013, said in an interview Monday night that he now considers it a "safety net."

  2. Five children hospitalized after chlorine release at Tampa pool store

    Accidents

    Five children were sickened at a pool store north of Tampa on Monday after a cloud of chlorine was released, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

  3. Deputies find unidentified decomposing body in Dunedin canal

    Public Safety

    DUNEDIN — Pinellas County sheriff's deputies found an unidentified male body floating in a Dunedin canal Monday afternoon, the Sheriff's Office said.

  4. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  5. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108