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Security patrol plan may prove hot issue

Many agree that traffic violations on Northdale Boulevard are going unchecked. But some don't want to pay extra for increased patrols there.

By LOGAN D. MABE

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 19, 2000


NORTHDALE -- Resident turnout is expected to be higher than usual Monday night when the Northdale Special Tax District meets at Gaither High School.

The nine-member board will consider a proposal to hire off-duty sheriff's deputies to provide extra security and traffic enforcement in the community.

The three-month trial program, which would cost about $1,000 a month, stalled at February's meeting, when board members deadlocked 4-4 with one member absent. The issue came up again several weeks later at a Northdale Civic Association meeting attended by about 80 residents.

Taxing district president Kevin Ambler said the plan calls for hiring off-duty sheriff's deputies to do 12 random patrols a month and focus on ticketing speeders along busy Northdale Boulevard.

"We hope to reduce the number of accidents and reduce the number of speeders in the area," Ambler said. "And increase the overall safety in the community. Just (last Wednesday) we had a terrible accident near the YMCA. It looked like the road curved and the car went straight."

Ambler said the added police presence should help remind drivers that Northdale Boulevard is not a 45-mph highway.

"With the increased security patrols focusing on those types of issues, we can bring awareness to those drivers and cause them to think twice about speeding on Northdale," Ambler said.

But not everyone is sold on the idea.

George Helmstetter leads a group of four board members against the extra spending.

"I'm totally opposed to it," Helmstetter said. "My feeling is the sheriff's department should patrol this area. Why should we pay extra to protect ourselves when the sheriff is supposed to protect us?"

Helmstetter agrees that traffic on Northdale Boulevard has increased and he often hears cars whizzing by his home, which is near the road. But he said Northdale residents already pay plenty in property taxes, which should afford them adequate police protection.

Board member Gwynneth Britt said she has received more than 130 e-mails and 63 phone calls from residents concerned about the security patrol. She said she expected many of those residents to attend Monday's meeting.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in Room 168 at Gaither High School.

-- Logan Mabe can be reached at 226-3464 or mabe@sptimes.com.

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