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Meetings set to curb fear on east side

After conducting three town meetings in West Pasco to answer residents' concerns over last month's Hudson slayings, the Sheriff's Office now plans three more such meetings on the other side of the county.

Sheriff Jim Gillum said Wednesday that residents in Dade City, Zephyrhills and Land O'Lakes have called his office, asking that they not be left out.

At each of the town meetings in West Pasco after the Jan. 26 murders of two Hudson residents, Gillum spoke to hundreds of elderly residents who had questions about safety and home security.

When the meetings were first announced, Gillum said that if attendance was impressive and residents continued to show interest, the department would hold meetings elsewhere.

Gillum said he and officers from the department's crime prevention unit will discuss security concerns at meetings later this month, all set for 7 p.m.

"People (in East and Central Pasco) have some concern about this and they have more of a heightened awareness about it," the sheriff said. "We don't want them to feel ignored, like they're the step-portion of the county."

Meanwhile, tighter enforcement of a county loitering ordinance continues, with few curfew problems reported by officers with the Community Oriented Policing (COP) unit of the Sheriff's Office, Gillum said.

The COP unit also has made its mark since it was assigned to the Embassy Hills and Regency Park neighborhoods in response to the Hudson murders.

The unit developed leads in the case of Jeffrey Faust, sheriff's officials said.

Faust, who had a small arsenal in his home, was arrested last week on weapons and narcotics charges.

Gillum announced the raid of Faust's home at the beginning of the town meeting at Regency Park.

When interviewed later by the Times, Gillum said the timing of the announcement was purely coincidental, not political.

And the sheriff, who is running for re-election this year, said Wednesday in response to a reporter's question that the town meetings aren't being staged to win votes.

"I'm not talking to any more people than I (always) have been," Gillum said. "I've been out talking to people for eight years. I'm out there. Always have been."