Chief: Expanding UCF PD jurisdiction would take years
First it was a pedestrian bridge. Now it's expanding the UCF Police Department's jurisdiction.
The solution to UCF-area crime changes every year, but the Florida statutes remain the same. UCF Police Chief Richard Beary said sending his officers off campus isn't as easy as flipping a switch. Currently, UCF PD's patrol boundaries include campus, affiliated apartments Knight Circle and The Pointe at Central, plus 1,000 feet off campus, which just barely touches off-campus apartments.
Although campus crime appears to be on the decline, from 2013 to 2014, the university's surrounding area saw a 75 percent increase, according to Orange County documents obtained by the Central Florida Future. In the past few weeks alone, students have received alerts for a drive-by near The Marquee, formerly Sterling Central, and a shooting in front of UCF's "Greek Ghetto."
With each new headline, students and county officials continue to call for UCF PD's jurisdiction to expand to include off-campus apartments.
In fact, the initiative was a main platform point for all three candidates during the 2015 Student Government Association presidential race. Newly elected Student Body President Cait Zona is making safety a top priority for her one-year term.
Flattered by students' respect for the department's level of service, Beary explained that Florida statutes, which set his policing boundaries, "can take years and years and years to work through."
"The statute of jurisdiction is beyond my capabilities and, quite frankly, beyond a student government initiative," he said.
Zona said if students continue to push for this expansion, she wants to make sure she and her Vice President Jarell Jones bring it to the legislature.
"They're very open to at least starting to change these types of things," Zona said. "Things that have to go through the state level take a long time, but if we don't start now, when are we ever going to start it?"
During her campaign, Zona acknowledged that the pedestrian bridge she had heavily advocated for was deemed unfeasible in an Orange County study. In a similar fashion, the idea came about after a string of student pedestrian deaths.
Currently, UCF PD works with the Orange County Sheriff's Office in a joint operation, which Beary said he believes is sufficient.
"We're only staffed to deal with our immediate responsibility, and if I was to all of a sudden acquire all this additional property, I don't know where I would get the staffing to be able to adequately do it without leaving other areas uncovered," he added.
Over the years, UCF PD has been recognized for its law enforcement partnerships. Its football gameday operations bring together officers from all over Central Florida, and most recently, the department borrowed an Orlando Police Department sketch artist in its efforts to apprehend a campus flasher.
"None of us have the staffing or the manpower to go [at] it alone, and we all recognize that," Beary said.
The sheer size difference between the agencies, as well as their patrol areas and call volumes, factors into the service difference students experience. If a student on campus calls UCF 911 dispatch, he or she will get an officer pretty quickly, Beary said.
"Some of those students who live off campus, if they have an incident, let's just say a car burglary, when they call, it might be 45 minutes, an hour, a couple hours before they get a deputy," he said.
In addition to off-campus student housing, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs told Local 6 she would support giving UCF PD the power to patrol Orlando bars in hopes of decreasing the amount of underage drinking.
"That's the majority of the issues, the underage drinking, and sometimes that morphs itself into fights and assaults and things like that," Beary said. "Again, I have to deal with what the statute allows me to do, and I don't have unlimited resources and manpower, quite the opposite …"
Although underage drinking is certainly an issue in a college town like Orlando, the number of arrests differs greatly from other Florida universities.
This past St. Patrick's Day, for example, UCF PD public information officer Courtney Gilmartin said the force made one arrest the morning after, compared with the 23 that Major Jim Russell reported were made by the FSU Police Department.
During a March 27 UCF PD joint operation with OCSO, UCF officers made three DUI arrests and Orange County deputies made one, Gilmartin said.
Caroline Glenn is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @bycarolineglenn or email her at CarolineGCentralFloridaFuture.com.