Hillsborough County FL Jan 4 2017 — The 900-plus members of the Sun City Center Security Patrol and their five squad cars have a new home that's five times the size of its previous facility.
From the head of the patrol to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office deputy who services the area, the new office at 1225 Pebble Beach Boulevard N is being celebrated as a welcomed addition.
Karen Ryan, first in her capacity of president of the Security Patrol board of directors and then as Chief of Patrol searched for a new headquarters for nearly four years.
Two years ago, she approached ClubLink, successor to WCI as owner of the seven golf courses in Sun City Center, about buying or leasing the North Lakes Golf Clubhouse property. WCI closed the course in 2009.
After five months of negotiations, a 10-year lease was signed last February. It has a renewal option, a year three option to buy and first right of refusal.
The rent for the old clubhouse is $2,000 a month, about $400 a month more than the Patrol had been paying the Sun City Center Community Association for the smaller property.
The Patrol paid about $20,000 for refurbishing the Clubhouse, but virtually all the hard work was "sweat labor" provided by patrol volunteers.
Now the patrol works out of a 4,200-square foot office, providing a service that Ryan calls, "an integral and vital part of the community."
The patrol has been slow-driving the streets of Sun City Center and it's 6,500 homes, since about 1982 when a handful of neighbors, driving their personal cars, started to patrol the community.
Today, community volunteers driving or dispatching cars seven days a week, 365 days a year, contribute 31,902 hours a year. The Patrol has no powers of arrest, but it helps in another way.
"Our presence deters would-be criminals," Ryan said. "Crimes of opportunity, such as burglaries and thefts are low because of the presence of our marked cars. Anything suspicious or any problems are radioed in by the cars to patrol dispatch which in turn contacts the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office as necessary."
Normally, patrol volunteers work only one shift, or three hours, a month. Ryan translates this into 35 dispatchers and 70 drivers a week, but many Patrol members pull double or triple shifts or come in when another member is sick or out of town.
Also aiding Ryan are five assistant chiefs and 32 captains, one for every day of the month and another for dispatchers.
The patrol also increases patrols during the holiday season, and does golf cart inspections for residents twice a year.
The Sheriff's office hopes to move Resource Deputy Jeff Merry and his assistant into the new Security Patrol office in February. The contract is pending with Hillsborough County Legal but HCSO has approved the move. Currently, the deputy's office is in small quarters tucked away with a lot of Community Association club rooms.
"Many residents don't know I have an office inside the community," Merry said. "The new building is located on a main thoroughfare and we expect to have markings visible so the community knows where we are, can locate us easily and would-be bad guys can see we're close by."
Sheriff David Gee estimates the patrol annually saves his office more than $1 million in patrol and other costs.