Each week, we're asking each of the Pinellas County sheriff candidates a question that's important to you, the voter, so you can be informed come ballot time.
This week, we asked:
If budget were not an issue, how would you improve the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office?
Scott Swope answers:
"This question may have had merit during the Rice/Coats era, however, the budget is a significant problem for the Sheriff’s Office now. During the Rice/Coats era, the budget increased nearly 90 percent over a 10-year period. This was largely due to increases in property values, which resulted in increases in tax revenues. Prior sheriffs spent money because they could, without really considering whether they should.
"Without increasing the existing budget, I would improve the Sheriff’s Office by reallocating limited resources from areas that do not affect public safety to areas that will better protect the public. I would move resources from the narcotics unit to the crimes against children unit, the sexual predator tracking unit, and the task force on human trafficking. The focus of the Sheriff’s Office on marijuana enforcement, i.e. surveilling Simply Hydroponics (a company that sells legal horticultural products) and on investigating internet sweepstakes cafes would end as soon as I took office. These investigations do not affect public safety.
"The next Pinellas County Sheriff must have a clear sense of priority in allocating the limited resources of the Sheriff’s Office. The taxpayers simply cannot afford to support the current administration’s lack of focus on things that do not affect public safety. The economy will improve and tax revenues will increase. The taxpayers deserve a Sheriff that will spend tax dollars wisely. I am that candidate."