The city of Waldo has devised a solution to its rise in burglaries in the past year — using the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office’s extra-duty program.
The sheriff’s office created the extra-duty program to provide a more intensive police presence for public or private events in Alachua County. The program allows entities to hire off-duty sheriff’s deputies for areas or events that may need a stronger police presence. In Waldo’s case, it provides more coverage in a way that fits within the city’s already tight budget.
Burglaries have increased in Waldo at a significant rate over the course of the past year. The city reported 24 residential burglaries in 2018, more than double the 10 that occurred in 2017. City Manager Kim Worley believes part of the reason many of the burglaries have gone unsolved is that Waldo has no regularly assigned officer, which leads to longer response times.
“It can take the sheriff’s office a while to get out here when a call is made,” said Worley. “If we had a dedicated deputy, the odds of these people getting caught would be much greater.”
By having an officer assigned to Waldo, even for a few hours a day, Worley believes the city could greatly curb the number of incidents throughout the year. Worley, working with a budget of about $25,000, hopes to hire enough extra-duty officers to ease public concerns.
According to a presentation given by Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, policing has already increased in Waldo in the past year, even before the addition of extra-duty officers. In 2017, Alachua County Sheriff’s deputies spent 1,706 total hours in Waldo in response to 1,380 calls. In 2018, these numbers increased to 1,818 hours on 1,722 total calls, about 800 of which were initiated by a deputy and pertained to events such as traffic stops and security checks. These figures do not take into account time officers spent in Waldo on routine patrols or time spent by special investigative units.
A large portion of the burglaries that took place in the past year occurred over the winter months, with some houses in the same neighborhoods being broken into within the span of a week, according to the presentation. One residence was even burglarized twice, with the boarded-up window from the first burglary being the point of entry on the second. The most common items stolen were TVs, tools, money, jewelry, and guns
Janet Tillman, 36, who has lived in Waldo for 10 years, said that firearms were among the most often stolen valuables.
“One of my neighbors had a bunch of guns stolen,” said Tillman. “They took shotguns, rifles, even an AK-47.”
Since the city council voted to disband the township’s police department in 2014, residents of Waldo have expressed concerns about how consistently laws are enforced in their town.
“You only see officers out here every now and then,” said Tillman. “We need officers out here on a regular basis.”
Another resident, Victor Ankney, 52, was the victim of an attempted break-in during the winter, when the burglaries were most frequent. Ankney awoke one night to the sound of a man attempting to knock out the screen door at the front of his house with a pitchfork. When he approached the source of the noise, the suspect ran.
“I guess I scared him when I opened the door because he took off and I couldn’t catch him,” said Ankney.
Ankney believes a more intensive policing system would significantly reduce the frequency of these incidents.
“Since we lost our police force is when this all started,” Ankney said. “So I think the presence of a police officer is a good thing.”
With the introduction of the extra-duty program, city officials hope to put the residents at ease. The program will allow the city to hire off-duty sheriff’s deputies for a minimum of three hours a day. Including all expenses, the cost of the ext
ra-duty officers would be $53.50 per hour. These deputies will be specifically assigned to the Waldo area, allowing for quicker response times to any reported crimes.
Lieutenant Brett Rhodenizer, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, explained how the sheriff’s office determines patrol zones in the county.
“There are three districts that are comprised of 11 geographic zones,” Rhodenizer said. “They are divided by call load and resource allocation.”
Waldo sits on the border of two of the largest zones in the county, giving the officers assigned to the zones a greater area to patrol.
Rhodenizer said that the patrols are split up into two teams, each working a 12-hour shift, with one team working from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the other vice versa. Each team includes a minimum of 13 deputies. Rhodenizer also emphasized that even with the addition of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, the sheriff’s office does not plan to patrol Waldo any less frequently.
“They aren’t going to be left to fend for themselves,” Rhodenizer said. “If they call 911, a deputy sheriff is still coming. If they call for help this afternoon, we’re coming.”