ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - Eighty-two million dollars - that's how much money the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is going to need if they're going to be able to keep up with the rapid growth in the area.
Just to help you put into perspective how quickly the area is growing, check this out:
- St. Johns County is the 8th fastest-growing county in the United States
- The population has grown by 29%, from 2010-18.
- That's more than double the growth rate of the entire state of Florida.
By 2023, 284,990 people are expected to call St. Johns County home.
That’s why the request from the SJSO is $6.7 million more than its budget last year.
"As we add tens-of-thousands of people to St. Johns County, which is what we've done since the [Great] Recession began, we haven't seen the same level of addition in manpower in the patrol area at the Sheriff's Office,” Chuck Mulligan, spokesman for the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office told Action News Jax.
St. Johns County has grown by 10,449 people from 2017-18, alone.
Action News Jax reporter Courtney Cole spoke to Mulligan. Below, she explains when the need for more officers started and how the money would be used.
The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office says the problem started with the Great Recession between 2007 and 2009.
During that time, the Sheriff’s Office was not able to replace cars, equipment or employees.
Now they're trying to catch up before it's too late.
Right now, the Sheriff’s Office only has 250 law enforcement deputies, not including corrections officers, according to Mulligan.
On average, those deputies are working to respond to between 450 and 500 calls each day.
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"Given that I've been around different parts of the country all my life. I find this government here very responsive,” said Juan Lulli.
Lulli moved to St. Johns County from Washington, D.C. about a year ago.
"Northeast Florida is just kinda unique. It's got culture, it's got history,” Lulli told Cole.
Now, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office wants to make sure the county's got enough boots on the ground, too.
"If we go too many more years without growth in the patrol arena, eventually citizens are going to see a delay in response,” said Mulligan.
That's why Sheriff David Shoar is asking the Board of County Commissioners for $82 million for the upcoming fiscal year which begins Oct. 1 and continues through Sept. 30, 2020.
In this breakdown, you can see the money will be split between the bailiff.
Corrections and Law Enforcement.
More than half of the $82M will go to law enforcement.
Mulligan said SJSO would use the money to hire:
- 22 law enforcement officers
- 5 corrections officers
The Sheriff’s Office also plans to hire part-time school crossing guards and crime scene techs.
Mulligan told Action News Jax the need for more officers was there last year, but the Marjory Stoneman
Douglas Act affected the number of officers available.
"There is no state or federal requirement for how many deputies you have to have to take care of X amount of citizens. There are formulas, but there's not a mandate, where we do have mandates in other areas,” said Mulligan.
If the Board of County Commissioners approves, it will still take a year before they can get the applicants properly trained and ready to be on the street.
The Sheriff’s Office says this extra money will only help in the short term because it will have to continue to reevaluate the need each year as the county continues to grow.
The Board of County Commissioners is set to meet in September to discuss and adopt a budget for the 2020 fiscal year.
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