TrafficGas Prices


Rising fuel costs could change crime prevention tactics for law enforcement

Florida sheriffs speak to WPTV about how price of gas could impact departments
Posted at 11:50 PM, Mar 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-15 23:50:48-04

STUART, Fla. — Florida sheriffs are among those who are closely watching rising gas prices.

Burning fuel is just a part of what it takes, they claim, to keep communities safe by staying on patrol on the road, in the air or out on the water.

But some crime prevention tactics might be scaled back if gas prices do not level out.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said agencies budget for fuel costs each year, but he did not plan for gas prices to rise as much as they have.

For the bigger gas guzzlers, like the helicopter, that could mean fewer proactive patrols.

No changes have been made to patrols yet, but Snyder said they are having those conversations.

“The proactive patrols are huge for us, that's what it's all about," Martin County Chief Deputy John Budensiek. "Even the deputies, if the aviation guys can't do it, deputies will drive around in their cars on proactive patrol."

The aviation unit has plenty of videos showcasing what they catch when they proactively fly above the county, such as finding thieves trying to steal boat motors.

The helicopters also burn large amounts of fuel for hours if they're tracking suspects or providing a birds-eye view to deputies on the ground during lengthy searches.

Budensiek describes the many fuel-burning tools that help them fight crime, from cars and ATVs to diesel-burning trucks.

"One thing we do intentionally is we buy and use larger vehicles and that's in order to have an upper hand on some of these takedowns we do, trying to prevent car chases here in the county," Budensiek said.

The marine unit also prioritizes proactive patrols as a deterrent for drunk boating, reckless driving or other illegal activity.

Snyder said if fuel prices continue to climb, the helicopter proactive patrols might be the first to scale back.

"For us to keep doing what we're doing now, there really does need to come to a point where gas stops going up," Snyder said.

He said nearly $1.2 million in his budget for fuel, which he said could still be tight even with their government discounts on fuel.

"As in all budgeting, it's a forecast and we did not anticipate gas prices at this level," Snyder said.

St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said when fuel costs have spiked in the past, they have doubled-up on deputies in patrol cars. That has not happened yet, but Mascara said he is closely watching prices.

Indian River County Sheriff Eric Flowers said he is "concerned and monitoring the situation." He added the "worst-case scenario is going back to the county for a budget amendment if needed."

A spokesperson for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said things are business as usual for them.

The sheriffs said they would not let fuel costs impact their response to actual emergencies.