(Post first published by the Daily Commercial on Jan 6, 2018 at 8:00 AM – http://www.dailycommercial.com/news/20180106/another-opinion-commissioner-parks-says-public-safety-top-priority-in-2018)

You’ve heard the phrase “Let’s take back our community”. Sadly, the phrase has become a battle cry to rally residents, law enforcement, and local leaders to turn back the tide of crime, death and despair that has affected hometowns across America.

Lake County crime rates are lower compared to our adjacent, more urbanized Counties. So, while I don’t suggest as a whole, we’ve lost our County, I strongly believe there are some necessary steps Lake County and our City Governments can take in 2018 to “Keep our Community” and deter crime coming from other Counties. Remember this past November when some criminals from Orange County carjacked and murdered a victim, burning the body and vehicle in south Lake County?

FDLE data points to some alarming trends in our Community. There may not be a significant rise in crimes related to building burglaries – but larceny and aggravated assault rates are significantly rising. Fentanyl and Opioid calls increased over 300 percent in just two years. Suicide rates have increased over 400 percent since 2013.

To “Keep our Community”, the Lake County we know and love, we must stop the growing momentum of darkness in our community. Of course, I believe this starts with us individually (me included). The “Me Culture” so prevalent today cannot be overcome solely by anything a government does.

However, Law enforcement and our first responders need more help. Calls for law enforcement have increased over 17% in less than two years. A Lake County Sheriff’s deputy now drives 300 miles on average per 8 hour shift! Lake County has noticeably less officers per capita than surrounding communities.

In 2018, I believe we should support community policing efforts as demonstrated by Sheriff Grinnell and cities such as Clermont led by Chief Chuck Broadway. These programs are proactive and build trust with measurable results pointing to the success of these efforts. Our County prides itself in its unique quality of life, being fiscally responsible; lean and efficient; and enjoys the second lowest property tax rate in the region.

But our population is growing fast and our first responders can only drive around responding “after the fact” for so long. Our quality of life is at stake. Lives are at stake. Furthermore, nothing is more disastrous for economic development than being labeled “high crime”. That’s a title that is extremely difficult and expensive to reverse. It’s time to act.

In 2018, I for one will be supporting efforts to put more first responders on our streets and will be assistive with proactive, community based policing efforts. I will be supporting our fire department in its aim to be more than just a response unit to one that serves a multitude of needs such as disaster preparedness, health awareness, and supporting other County/city services such as animal welfare.

Additionally, I will support community based efforts to address suicide, opioide addiction, and safe driving. The community leaders out there on the front lines need our help.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year! Together, we can keep our community safe and reverse those horrible trends we hear about all too often these days.

-Sean

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