We learned in the last two weeks about a couple of instances where it has become necessary to hire off duty deputies to slow down speeders in Holley by the Sea and to direct the flow of weekend traffic on Gulf Boulevard at the Navarre Beach Causeway.
This presents an interesting scenario. On one hand, taxpayers are right when they say they are already paying ad valorem taxes for the Sheriff’s office. In fact, the Sheriff’s office takes the bulk of ad valorem taxes and they are set to ask for more in their next budget cycle. The Sheriff says he needs more deputies on the street. His budget isn’t large enough. Surely the other county departments feel that way as well.
On the other hand, safety is a priority in our neighborhoods and at our beach. And if the Sheriff doesn’t have the personnel to staff it, then the only other option is to hire off duty deputies to cover it. But the danger in this is the precedence it sets. Right now, we have two areas of Navarre paying for deputies. Who else will join in because they have speeders in their neighborhoods?
This is a privatization of law enforcement and the repercussions should be weighed. It certainly eases the burden on our Sheriff, but at what point will neighborhood safety be the responsibility of the home owners’ associations or a private citizen? If they are willing to pay for it, a Sheriff could cut back on patrols in that specific area and focus more on Highway 87 and Highway 98. He could need fewer on duty deputies and rely on the private pay of the citizens in addition to their payment of ad valorem taxes to his budget. We are not suggesting Sheriff Johnson would do that, but someone in his position might.
The Sheriff says his department has higher priorities than traffic stops. We know that is true. We agree that we need to clean up the drugs in this area. They are becoming more and more prevalent and the use of those drugs leads to more crime. We hear the overdose calls on the scanner. We support his effort to flush them out of Navarre. We read the reports of child molestation and sexual assault. We want those horrible people behind bars. But we also want and pay for street safety because we want our children to be able to play outside without getting hit by a speeder. We want bicyclists to be able to ride safely. We don’t want to take our life in our own hands just backing out of our driveway.
It boils down to the question of how do you want to pay for law enforcement, privately or through ad valorem taxes – or in our case, both.