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Pasco sheriff's candidates focus on crime, progress

During the first six months of 2008, while the campaign for sheriff waged on, 13 people were murdered in Pasco County. Sixty-six people were raped, and 592 were victims of aggravated assault. There were 171 robberies reported, 541 cars stolen and 2,135 burglaries.

Some of these crimes fall to city police to solve, but the vast majority occurred in the sheriff's jurisdiction.

So what does all this mean to you, the voter?

Does 13 murders in six months equal an unsafe county?

Should you put LoJack in your car, given the number of thefts?

And what, truly, can Pasco's top law officer do about any of it?

Bob White

White, a 58-year-old Republican seeking a third term, uses Florida Department of Law Enforcement statistics to paint this picture for voters: Since he took office in 2001, White says crime in Pasco has gone down, while arrests and clearance rates have gone up and the jail population has grown.

"I think the public should be encouraged," he says.

And behind those raw numbers of crimes committed this year, Pasco is posting better than a 30 percent clearance rate, well above the state average.

He also lauds his agency's fiscal practices, citing a lower per capita cost for public safety than smaller counties like Hernando and Sumter.

"There is no one that we can find that is more effective with money than we are," he says.

That's no small feat, he says, in a place with a growing population and shrinking resources.

As sheriff, he says his function in keeping people safe is to facilitate a "team effort" between the Sheriff's Office and citizens using commonsense safeguards to protect themselves.

"The best way to attack crime is to solve the crimes that are committed. We have no early warning radar," White says.

Also important, he says, is a "continuity of command" instead of another turnover at the top of the agency.

"This Sheriff's Office has started and stopped every eight years," he says, referring to sheriffs being voted in and out. "I think that largely the eye comes off the ball."

Kim Bogart

Bogart, 56, a former agency commander who is challenging White on the Democratic side, often criticizes him with these two figures:

Pasco's violent crime has increased 28 percent since 2005, and robberies have increased 98 percent.

"We're watching a more-than-significant spike in the violent crimes in the last couple of years," Bogart says. "That's important."

And he thinks it's not being communicated to the public.

"I think where the sheriff's missing the mark is the folks in Holiday or in Hudson or in Land O'Lakes, is it relevant the crime that's happening in Dade City or Zephyrhills? It's irrelevant to the citizens who live in Holiday. They want to know what's happening in their communities and nearby."

Bogart says he would fight the problem by informing and engaging the public.

He wants to implement a service on the Sheriff's Office Web site similar to what is done in Hernando County, in which visitors can view specific, current crime activity for their own neighborhoods.

Secondly, he would form advisory councils of community and neighborhood leaders whose meetings are attended by Sheriff's Office commanders. They would be held accountable for the issues raised by the residents, Bogart says.

"It's a structured opportunity for developing mutual trust and understanding," he says. "That's the value of it."

On the operational end, Bogart says it's long past time to reconfigure the way the county is divided up geographically for patrolling. He says those sectors haven't been revised in a decade, causing inefficiencies in the way deputies respond to crimes.

"That should be done countywide, and then stay on top of it," he says.

He also plans a top-to-bottom evaluation of every position in the agency in hopes of cutting down on service delays and freeing up staffing to devote it where it's needed: patrol.

Bobby Kinzy

Like Bogart, Kinzy, the no-party candidate with a background in mechanics, not law enforcement, isn't interested in statistics from anywhere but Pasco County.

"It's like comparative shopping," he said of holding Pasco figures up to other counties. "Those percentages don't mean anything to me. I'm more concerned about the crime here."

Kinzy, 60, says he would combat it with aggressive policing, starting with a zero-tolerance policy for drug dealers. He wants to see an increase in search warrants of suspected crack houses, an area of enforcement he thinks has lagged under White.

His main responsibility as sheriff, he says, would be to put more deputies on the street.

"I think we need a lot closer working relationship with the residents. These are the people that really know what's going on," he says.

Without naming specifics, he says he can identify inefficient spending and use the money to hire more deputies. And he wants the agency to pursue state and federal grants to help the budget.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Pasco sheriff's candidates focus on crime, progress 10/26/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 31, 2008 8:57pm]

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