ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings received approval from the Orange County Commission for a test pilot program that will have armed security officers patrolling two neighborhoods that are plagued with crime. The sheriff told commissioners the program would start in December. "We will be able to better address perhaps the fear of crime that some people have as well as real crime itself," he said.
Residents took to the podium to speak in favor of the proposal, including a woman from Azalea Park that lamented the friendly neighbors that graced the streets when she was younger. "What's there instead are unemployed, vicious, street thugs. You can't have your children out there."
Holden Heights and Azalea Park will both get security officers that will be armed according to Sheriff Demings. "The number one difference is they do not have arrest authority. They cannot detain individuals or use force in some of the situations that law enforcement can."
Putting security officers in neighborhoods through the Sheriff's Office is a pilot program that has never been tried before. It will cost $150,000 for 90 days beginning in December. Commissioners voted unanimously to support the test, but Mayor Teresa Jacobs is concerned about future funding, especially if the hired security officers yield big results.
"Could we afford to do this year round on an expanded basis. I think that, you always have to look at the finances. Is the Sheriff going to need to raise taxes to have this as a permanent program?"
The sheriff has already selected a security company the county is already doing business with, and plans to have the security officers in place by December. It will cost substantially less than the $100,000 it takes to hire, pay, train, and equip a sworn deputy. Sheriff Demings says it takes between 18 months to 2 years from the time he gets the funding to be able to get a new deputy on the streets.