OUR VIEW: VCSO promoting community in Deltona
(Daytona Beach News Journal editorial/published January 26, 2017)
The new sheriff wants to treat Deltona like the big city it is.
As the newly elected sheriff, Mike Chitwood has an ambitious agenda for the Volusia County Sheriff's Office, which includes significant changes in leadership positions, pay, technology and a general philosophy of law enforcement.
But his approach to the city of Deltona may prove to have the most lasting impact.
In an hour-long meeting Monday with The News-Journal's editorial board, Chitwood covered more ground than a speeding cheetah. (See below for the full video - it's worth a watch ) It was his foray into policing the county's most-populous municipality, though, that produced some of the most interesting answers.
The city of Deltona contracts with the sheriff's department to provide law enforcement services. Chitwood said crime stats there are "quite excellent;" deputies "do a good job out there."
However, he said the VCSO is bad at marketing that success, and bad at soliciting input from the public.
"Residents don't feel they have a say in what's going on," he said. "They want more engagement."
So one of his primary goals is to treat Deltona more like a city patrol, utilizing a lot of the same strategies Chitwood employed in Daytona Beach during his 10 years as its police chief. Those include holding public meetings, creating a bike patrol and operating youth programs. The sheriff also said he wants to embed deputies into the community long term, rather than rotating them through every couple of years. That breeds familiarity on both sides of the line.
"We want to create a community police force so it's not just another patrol," Chitwood said. "We want people in there who have a passion for city policing."
In short, he wants to treat Deltona like the big city it is.
Since being incorporated in 1995, Deltona has possessed the population (more than 88,000), but it has lacked an identity. It's been a bedroom community for East Volusia County, Seminole and Orange counties, a bunch of single-family homes in a patchwork of curving roads whose layout is so random and confusing it has been compared to a plate of spaghetti. City leaders have been trying for years to attract more commercial development to broaden Deltona's tax base (the end of the housing bubble and the ensuing
Great Recession hit the city particularly hard).
Most of all, they've tried to promote a sense of community. That's one reason the city is building a new $9 million community center at the end of Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard off Howland Boulevard. It's also why officials have attacked blighted neighborhoods, such as by changing ordinances regarding curbside garbage pickup. And it's also why leaders have discussed constructing a city center that would become a hub of activity for its residents, such as by hosting festivals and concerts.
Getting law enforcement officers to become a bigger part of everyday Deltona life - instead of being just another area in which to respond to calls - could be a vital component to boosting civic involvement. It not only can make a city even safer, it also can positively change how residents see their community - as one worth investing their own time. That bottom-up approach may help lure more outside development to diversify the local economy, once they see the quality of life improve.
Kudos to Chitwood for looking beyond crime fighting for ways the Sheriff's Office can make a difference.
Administrative offices: West Volusia 386-736-5961 Daytona Beach 386-254-4689 New Smyrna Beach 386-423-3352
Non-emergency dispatch numbers: DeLand 386-943-8276 Daytona Beach 386-239-8276 New Smyrna Beach 386-409-8276 Osteen 407-323-0151