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Popular patrols extended

Residents seem to like the added police presence on busy Northdale Boulevard and in their neighborhoods. They like it so much that the Northdale Special Tax District has decided to extend and increase its extra patrol program another six months.

The tax district has been spending about $2,000 a month for 24 random four-hour patrols a month. Based on good reviews from residents, the board this week voted unanimously to continue the patrols and increase the monthly number to 32.

"It seems like it's really helping, and residents feel we actually should increase the patrols," said tax district president Kevin Ambler.

District member Dennis Cooper initially proposed extending the patrols another 12 months, but other board members favored a six-month extension, at which time they can decide whether to continue funding the program.

Northdale property manager Diane Montgomery said that during some months, not all 24 shifts have been filled. Sheriff's deputies sign up for the off-duty jobs, and if there are no volunteers, the shift goes unmanned.

But a new way of handling off-duty assignments likely will fix that problem, she said. In the past, deputies had to drive to a substation in Ybor City to sign up for the patrols. Soon they will be able to do it electronically through a computer program set up to handle assignments.

District member Gwynneth Britt asked that deputies continue to fan out through the neighborhoods on their patrols, rather than limit their work to speed enforcement on Northdale Boulevard. That policy will continue, Montgomery said.

_ Logan D. Mabe can be reached at 226-3464 or by e-mail at