Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Journey Looks to Save on Security; the Cost for Hiring Police Officers Is Eating into Youth Programs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Journey Looks to Save on Security; the Cost for Hiring Police Officers Is Eating into Youth Programs

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT GALNOR

Jacksonville Journey anti-crime programs are looking for different security options because of the cost of local crimefighters.

The city's out-of-school suspension centers will be cutting security costs by at least a third simply by hiring someone outside the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to staff them beginning early next year.

The average cost of a school resource officer for the two-thirds of the year school is in session is about $71,000, said Director Micheal Edwards, the Sheriff's Office liaison to Jacksonville Journey.

The centers will instead look to use Duval County school officers or retired police to staff the five centers, said W.C. Gentry, a School Board member who also serves on the Journey oversight committee.

The cost issue surfaced last summer, when Journey officials learned that more than 60 percent of the budget for a youth sports program at city parks went to the Sheriff's Office for police supervision.

"That clearly is a problem the city needs to address," Gentry said.

The Sheriff's Office charges for the cost of an officer's salary and benefits, vehicle and other equipment, Edwards said, and the department can't offer lower rates.

"This is not something we're making a dime on," he said. "It's all real costs."

Journey officials initially asked to have school resource officers staff the suspension centers, where students are referred when they're temporarily removed from school. But police expenses consumed close to 40 percent of the $810,000 budget, records show, putting the cost of security versus helping students out of balance, Gentry said.

Edwards said security decisions are up to Journey and the committee can weigh the costs and benefits of who provides the service.

Last summer, the Sheriff's Office ended up using overtime dollars to pay for officers at the city-run Intramural Sports League through September. …

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