Clay County sheriff's deputies answer record number of calls

Agency using new technology to keep up with growth

By Vic Micolucci - I-TEAM reporter, anchor

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. - Authorities with the Clay County Sheriff's Office are dealing with a record number of calls and a growing population by using technology to their advantage.

The agency released its annual report for 2018, when deputies said they fielded more calls for service than ever before.

In 2018, the county gained more than 4,000 new residents as builders continue to expand with new neighborhoods.

It’s no surprise for Daniel Vallencourt, of Vallencourt Construction. He is proud of what he and his team have done with the Clay Theater.

His construction company revamped the 82-year-old landmark. It’s now a wedding and event venue in the heart of Green Cove Springs.

As a lifelong Clay County resident, Vallencourt said he’s seen the growth, especially in the past few years.

“More people,” he said. “More needs for fire, police, all kinds of public service.”

“We had a good year,” said Deputy Chris Padgett, the spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office. “We had a lot of work though.”

News4Jax reviewed the numbers with Padgett, who is also a lifelong Clay County resident. There was a 2% population growth keeping the 275 deputies on the go.

Calls for service in 2018 included:

  • Two homicide investigations
  • 51 robberies
  • 638 cases with the Special Victims Unit
  • 5,403 traffic crashes
  • 4,619 inmates booked into the jail.

“We started trying to leverage technology to move forward,” Padgett added.

Technology like social media. The agency doubled its following on Facebook in a single year. It helps deputies spread the word about fugitives, missing people and other newsworthy incidents.

Deputies also use license plate readers, or LPRs, mounted on vehicles and fixed locations around the county.

In the first 90 days of use, they scanned 1 million tags. Now they’re able to keep tabs on approximately 250,000 tags each month, helping investigators look for fugitives, warrants and missing people.

The $48 million budget also pays for the Clay Community Connect, or C3. That allows the Sheriff’s Office to tap into security cameras from local businesses whose owners agree to it.

“If the McDonald’s in Middleburg was to experience an armed robbery right now and they hit the panic button or they call 911, our dispatch will be able to have live time feed from their camera system at that point,” Padgett explained.

To keep up with the growth, the Sheriff’s Office is proposing a larger budget in 2019 and 2020, which will include room to hire more deputies.

Vallencourt said there’s a bright future in the fast-growing county.

“Lately it’s been really getting exciting,” Vallencourt said, as he prepared for the next wedding at the Clay Theater.

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