DADE CITY — Last summer, a pair of county commissioners publicly questioned the image of Pasco County as portrayed on the cable-network television show Live PD.
Commissioners Jack Mariano and Kathryn Starkey said they worried that the twice-weekly A&E show that follows deputies in real-time had created an undesirable perception of Pasco. The commissioners said they feared the show was counter-productive to the county's efforts to build a favorable business climate for economic development and tourism.
It turns out, the commissioners' concerns may have been overstated, at least when it comes to tourism.
A recently released survey of tourists in Pasco showed that most respondents didn't know or didn't care about Pasco's role in the television show.
In fact, in the survey of 757 visitors to Pasco County, the most common response to a question about the show was this:
"I never heard of Live PD.''
That was the answer from 42 percent of the respondents. Another 18 percent said they were not aware Pasco County was on Live PD, and 22 percent said the show "has no effect on my interest in returning to Pasco County.''
Combined, that means 82 percent of those surveyed were ignorant of the show, Pasco's participation on it or said it didn't influence their travel decisions.
The survey questions were the work of the Tallahassee firm of Downs and St. Germain Research as part of an ongoing study of Pasco's tourism demographics. At the request of the county's tourism office, researchers included the Live PD questions in surveys conducted July to September 2018.
The results were forwarded last week to the Pasco Tourism Council. It drew no public comment from the tourism panel, an advisory body to the Pasco County Commission.
"I'm delighted they did the survey,'' Mariano said later when told of the results. "When you hear things from constituents, you need to bring things forward and have a conversation about it…. I'm not going to dispute the survey. I'm delighted we actually did the research.''
Starkey, however, said her concerns remain about economic development, particularly the county's perception among out-of-area real estate firms searching for business and industrial sites.
"That (Live PD) wasn't my favorite image to pop up about Pasco County,'' she said.
The Pasco Sheriff's Office disagreed.
The commissioners are entitled to their opinions, said Sheriff Chris Nocco, but the agency partnered with the show "to be as transparent to the citizens of Pasco County as possible and show the real view of what our deputies face day in and day out.''
Nocco said he was pleased with the "positive reaction'' to the agency's participation in the show.
One negative on the survey was that 15 percent of the respondents said the show "decreased my interest in returning to Pasco County'' while 3 percent said it increased their interest.
But gauging that diminished interest will be difficult in light of other survey answers. Nine-nine percent of respondents said they definitely or probably would return to Pasco as a tourist, and 85 percent were visiting for at least the second time. The top reason (31 percent) for coming to Pasco County was to visit friends or families. Five percent said they came to Pasco County for the initial 10-day scalloping season in July 2018.
The Pasco Sheriff's Office, incidentally, may have helped with a tourism spike of its own. According to social media posts, more than 1,000 people, including some from out of state, said they planned to attend a Jan. 19 meet-and-greet at the agency's west Pasco headquarters. By the end of the event, the Sheriff's Office estimated attendance at 5,000.
Who did they want to meet?
The deputies and their canine partners who appear on Live PD.
Contact C.T. Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.