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One deputy, one community and many needs to address

(ran Beach edition)

Deputy Tony Peyinghaus is the new community policing officer, and is coordinating efforts with Madeira Beach to keep things going smoothly.

Late at night, partiers would gather frequently in the sand dunes of Kitty Stuart Park. They drank, used drugs and had sex, much to the consternation of guests at the nearby Anchorage of Madeira Motel.

Not anymore, thanks in part to the city's new community policing program.

"I just got a call from the Anchorage Motel and the situation seems to be resolved," said Sheriff's deputy Tony Peyinghaus, who several weeks ago began as Madeira Beach's first community police officer.

Debbie Klein, owner of the motel at 14080 Gulf Blvd., reported the "midnight hours" gatherings in a dune area not visible to normal patrols by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. The complaint was referred to Peyinghaus, who coordinated expanded patrols by the regular deputies.

"Now the business owner is happy. Her customers are happy. The program worked," Peyinghaus said.

The new community policing program is funded by a three-year, $75,000 federal grant. The city is obligated to assume the cost of the program for another two years. The annual cost to Madeira Beach for the five-year period is estimated at $50,000.

"Community policing is a partnership, a network involving law enforcement, the community and the government," Peyinghaus said. "We work together to help reduce crime and the fear of crime. And by working together, we establish a more open relationship between the community and law enforcement."

Peyinghaus, who previously was a community police officer in the Lealman area, works primarily during the weekdays, but schedules one or two evening shifts each week and an occasional weekend shift.

In person or through the computer, he alerts deputies assigned to the city of problems he has identified.

In addition to eliminating the late-night beach partiers, Peyinghaus has helped coordinate increased patrols in Bicentennial Park, where vagrants were reported near the Madeira Beach middle school and elementary school complex; started an investigation of a "guitar man" who plays for donations in John's Pass Village; handled various noise complaints; and is helping cite speeders on Crystal Island.

City Manager Mike Bonfield also has asked Peyinghaus to assist in handling code enforcement citations and neighborhood disputes.

But most of all, Peyinghaus sees himself as a law enforcement ambassador to the community. He plans to meet all business owners, whom he describes as the "bread and butter" of the tourist-oriented community.

Peyinghaus and a crime prevention specialist from the Sheriff's Office will meet with members of the city's four neighborhood watch groups at City Hall on Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. The meeting is open to the public.

And when his custom law enforcement bicycle is delivered, Peyinghaus plans to be seen pedaling Madeira Beach streets.

"A bicycle really provides an excellent way to communicate. When you are in that big steel box (the police cruiser), you can wave as much as you want to, but there is still a barrier. Average law enforcement tends not to have contact with average citizens except when they are victims of crime. I want to establish relationships," Peyinghaus said.

Citizens can reach Peyinghaus by leaving a message on his voice mail (582-6543), and at a soon-to-be-installed telephone and office at City Hall. Bonfield said the office will be used by all deputies patrolling the city.

Bonfield said the community policing program brings back services typical of a city police department. "I think its going to work real well," he said.