CHEVAL — Only residents, authorized guests and approved vendors may enter the three gates of this enclave, which stretches from Van Dyke Road north to Lutz-Lake Fern Road, and from N Dale Mabry Highway west to the Brooker Creek Headwaters Nature Preserve. The community boasts wetlands, lakes, a country club and two private golf courses.
Entrances are staffed around the clock seven days a week by hired security personnel who log visits and continuously circle the wide streets noting unusual activity and enforcing deed restrictions such as street parking, signs and trash.
In keeping with U.S. Census boundaries, the Times' data groups Cheval with neighborhoods to its north. But community leaders say that when analyzed alone, their records indicate that no more than "a handful" of crimes took place in Cheval last year.
Tim McClain, president of the Cheval West Homeowners Association, moved here 11 years ago after living in a more lax deed-restricted community. The married father of four owns a staffing company in Pasco County.
North of Tampa talked recently with McClain, 47, about crime and the secluded community.
Does the Sheriff's Office regularly patrol here?
Not at all. Our 24-hour community service staff and one person who "roves" report anything amiss, occasionally a stolen bicycle or a deer hit by a car, but mostly fender benders or an open garage door. They carry an automated external defibrillator in case a resident has a heart attack.
They have no law enforcement authority. Anything serious like petty theft, trespassing, DUI or domestic violence, they call the sheriff. A "rover" goes to every scene with the fire truck or ambulance, so every incident is reported.
We pay state troopers to come into Cheval twice a month to monitor speeding and stop sign compliance.
What's the difference between Cheval West and Cheval East?
Cheval West is newer and larger, with about 780 homes. We are a Community Development District with annual assessments to maintain internal infrastructure, roads, drainage, gates and landscaping. Home prices range from $200,000 to $2 million. Several subdivisions are named for wine or liquors such as Chardonnay, Chantilly and Chambord.
Cheval East has about 500 homes, many valued over $1 million. They have a paid rover but have never been a CDD.
What are some of the common infractions?
Issues might be a dirty roof or a mailbox missing numbers, mold, overgrown weeds or trees that need trimming.
Sounds pretty idyllic. What DO you worry about?
We go home at night and feel safe in the sense that you don't have people running in and out, no solicitors knocking at your door, no abandoned vehicles or houses looking horrible. … These days, for most people, their biggest worry is paying the mortgage.
Amy Scherzer, Times staff writer