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as taxpayers, we also can be grateful for how economically Knight has accomplished all of this. For example, by skillful management of sworn deputies, the Sheriff's Office has kept costs quite low. Since 2011, 26 deputies have been reassigned to put those resources where they were most needed. If the Sheriff's Office had had to hire 26 additional deputies, it could have cost taxpayers more than $3.2 million. Yet, by careful analysis of existing resources and allocation of per- sonnel to those areas of greatest need, the cost to the county has been less than $320,000. The Sheriff's Office has made recruitment of quality applicants, and their retention once on the job, a top priority. In addition to superior salaries and benefits, equipment and training opportunities also are attractive to prospective deputies. Most recent applicants already have Florida law enforcement certification. With a total staff of approximately 1,000 sworn officers and support personnel, the Sheriff's Office is an efficient organization working to make the county safer. Knight told the commissioners, "They are probably the best law enforcement workforce I've ever been around." Growth in the county will continue to place a greater demand on the Sheriff's Office in the future. One focus is the area around University Parkway and Interstate 75. The increasing number of major sporting events that will be held at Nathan Benderson Park, along with the planned opening of The Mall at University Town Center, will increase consid- erably the number of deputies needed in that vicinity. The Sheriff's Office had Maj. Kevin Kenney research the impact o f l a r g e m a l l s i n O r l a n d o o n s t a f f - ing requirements for the Orange County Sheriff's Office, since the larger malls there w i l l b e s i m i l a r i n size to the new mall here. While the sher- iff expects to have to add as many as six deputies to meet increased demand in the University Parkway/I-75 area, Knight told the commissioners he was trying to delay making a decision on personnel and new equipment until he could be more certain of exact needs. Since Knight took office as sheriff in 2009, many changes have been made in the depart- ment. The effect of those changes has been to create a highly qualified, professional force that has significantly reduced crime and made the county a safer place to live and work. It is an excellent complement to the sun, sea and warm temperatures.% Sarasota County continues to lead the state's most populous counties — those with populations of 100,000 or more — in crime reduction. OPINION Sarasota News Leader February 7, 2014 Page 93

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