SUN CITY CENTER – Thanks to a $2,700 grant from the South Shore Council of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, a new high-tech GPS system has the SCC Security Patrol cruising safely into the 21st century.
The funding was used to cover most of the cost of a $3,500 software package that allows dispatchers to track the locations of patrol cars at all times during their four daily shifts, seven days a week. With almost 1,000 volunteers monitoring the homes of the community’s more than 11,000 residents, driver safety is a top priority for Security Patrol Chief Bob Powers.
“Our goal is to keep our volunteers safe night and day,” Powers said. “If one of our drivers should have a heart attack or stroke, we will have assistance to them within minutes, thanks to the GPS tracking program.”
Here’s how it works.
It’s standard procedure for drivers to radio the office when they need to park or vacate their vehicles for any reason. With GPS the dispatcher doesn’t have to rely on these calls to know where a car is. If a car is stopped in one spot longer than necessary and the dispatcher cannot reach the driver on the radio, another car can be dispatched immediately to the exact location to provide assistance.
Deputy Chief Martha Finley, a volunteer of 18 years, is impressed.
“This is a wonderful way to make our community safer,” she said, adding that team captains already have completed training on the system, and all drivers will be trained within the next six months.
Powers said the patrol has applied for another foundation grant to pay for two hand-held radios with wider band width. They will be used by dispatchers to maintain contact with the shift captains. The cost is $1,500. With donations down and gas prices up, the grant is needed to help the patrol further improve the quality of security in Sun City Center, he said.
Powers joined the patrol when he first moved to Sun City Center three and a half years ago. Two years later he was appointed chief. During the past 18 months he and the all-volunteer staff have worked diligently to improve the quality of service they provide to the community, which is supported by grants, individual donations and fundraising events, like the April 17 Tampa Bay Rays trip. Two busloads of Sun City Center fans purchased discounted tickets and rode to the recent Rays vs. New York Yankees game. In response to the heavy turnout, the patrol is going to repeat the offer in June.
For further information on the SCC Security Patrol, call (813) 642-2020.
Dosi Loverro is a freelance writer who can be reached at [email protected]