TAMPA — With tons of hazardous cargo and hundreds of thousands of cruise passengers coming and going each year, the state considers the Port of Tampa a high security risk.
And with high risk comes the need for law enforcement.
As part of a $1.7 million annual contract, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office provides about 17 deputies to work alongside the port's security force, said Richard Wainio, Tampa's port director. The contract includes squad cars, equipment and more.
State law requires the arrangement, said Mark Dubina, the director of port security. The law mandates high-risk ports have a constant presence of law enforcement officers with the authority to make arrests, Dubina said.
Hillsborough Deputy Mark Longway, who was killed Tuesday morning after his cruiser collided with a semitrailer truck in downtown Tampa, started working at the port eight months ago. He was on his way home from a 12-hour night shift when the accident occurred, officials said.
Port deputies patrol the areas of Channelside, Hooker's Point, Port Sutton and the cruise terminals. They also scan passengers and other port visitors for warrants and make arrests and conduct criminal investigations as needed, said Sgt. Joel Mathews, who oversees the port deputies.
Working the night shift, Longway's time was often devoted to arresting drunken drivers and issuing traffic violations along Channelside as well as basic patrols, Mathews said.
Deputies make up one-third of security at the port. Unarmed contract guards check identification at the gate and armed port personnel, who have detention authority but cannot make arrests, conduct security checks and do routine patrols, Dubina said.
"It's a collaborative effort," he said.
Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374.