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Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Deputies work different angles to keep neighborhoods safe

Community resource deputies take a hands-on approach that’s meant to tackle crime at its roots.

Northwest Hillsborough County neighborhoods aren’t exactly built to be conducive for cops walking a beat, but that isn’t stopping a few deputies from putting a face on law enforcement.

Phil Acaba and Craig Hoffman are community resource deputies assigned to the Northwest part of the county. Acaba is charged with working neighborhood issues in the Westchase, Odessa, Keystone and Citrus Park areas. Hoffman represents Town ‘N Country.

While their counterparts in uniform patrol those areas, often going from call to call, Hoffman and Acaba are charged with fighting crime from a slightly different angle.

As community resource deputies, they are meant to put a face on law enforcement within the neighborhoods they serve. They’re also tasked with taking on neighborhood specific complaints to find solutions.

“These deputies act as the sheriff’s liaison (with) the community” and others that can provide the support needed to solve a specific concern, said Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Chad Chronister.

They work with the county’s code enforcement agency, other units within the sheriff’s office, neighborhood groups and businesses to dig in and handle problems as diverse as traffic complaints, graffiti, truancy concerns and more.

“When you want to talk about an amazing program (this is it),” Chronister said. “It’s because the community gets a more personal touch.”

Hillsborough’s community resource deputy program began in the early 1990s when the federal government was offering grant money to put more law enforcement officers “back on beats” in communities throughout the country. While the federal grant money has long since run out, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has kept its version of the program running.

Chronister said the why behind that decision was simple: “Regular patrol deputies can’t dedicate the manpower and resources” that CRDs can to helping stop repeat crimes from happening.

Acaba and Hoffman say they like the hands-on, proactive approach they’ve been charged with taking. Rather than running from one call to the next, they are able to identify repeat problems and deploy resources, such as code enforcement, to actually solve them.

Hoffman recalled an ongoing problem with a homeless camp in Town ‘N Country that was addressed last year through a community effort. He also pointed to a community cleanup that netted more than 6,000 pounds of trash as an example of what CRDs and neighborhoods can accomplish together.

Acaba says the proactive approach CRDs take to reduce crimes in their areas is one of the reasons why he likes the post so much. The focus of a CRD, he said, “is on reducing burglaries, criminal mischiefs” and other smaller crimes that can add up to big problems in neighborhoods.

CRDs keep up with the statistics to find crime trends and respond to areas where there are repeat calls for service to find solutions. In doing so, they help neighborhoods and they also take some of the pressures off patrol deputies.

“These CRDs take a personal interest,” Chronister said.

For more information about sheriff’s office programs, visit the agency online at http://www.hcso.tampa.fl.us.

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