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Beverly Hills back on night patrols

The Beverly Hills Surveillance Unit has resumed patrol service between midnight and 6 a.m., deciding to cut costs in other areas, officials said Thursday. "I'm very happy," said Joe Carney, a former captain of the unit who now serves as a dispatcher. "This was a morale factor for the unit."

The problem was a lack of work for the volunteers once the shift was eliminated. "We have two cars and 90 people. We had an overabundance of people," he said.

Unit officials, acting on a suggestion by the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, cut the early-morning service a few weeks ago to help save money, officials said. It was reinstated this week.

Renewing the service and other issues were discussed at a meeting Tuesday with unit members and Sheriff Charles Dean. The unit's interim captain, serving until new elections are held, declined to comment Thursday.

The Beverly Hills unit is composed of volunteers who patrol the area and report any suspicious activities they see to Sheriff's Office deputies. Last year, volunteers put in 26,000 hours and drove 99,000 miles on the beat, the Sheriff's Office reported.

With budget concerns in mind, sheriff's officials in October suggested eliminating the late-shift coverage to save on gasoline, maintenance and vehicle wear-and-tear.

The Sheriff's Office, which provides vehicles and fuel for Beverly Hills and the county's five other neighborhood patrols, asked that each vehicle patrol 30,000 miles each year.

Beverly Hills has two vehicles, so its allotment would be 60,000 miles, or a reduction of 39,000 miles from last year's total.

The midnight shift was the logical area to cut, sheriff's officials said, citing statistics that show at least 71 percent of all residential crimes occur during daylight hours.

Now, sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney said, the Sheriff's Office is putting together a plan that explains the units' needs and how much money is available for them. And each unit is developing its proposed budget.

All six neighborhood patrols still need to tighten their belts, Tierney said. But the Beverly Hills cuts don't necessarily have to come from the late-night shifts.