Cooperation is Key to Residents’ Safety

Sheriff Gary Borders at 2015 Kicks for Guns Event

On Thursday, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department and the Mount Dora Police Department, in conjunction with Crime Line, once again held a Kicks for Guns event in Mount Dora.

In a “no questions asked” amnesty program citizens turn in firearms in exchange for gift cards.  This year the program, held on the grounds of Renninger’s Antiques and Flea Market, successfully removed 60 guns from circulation.

Weapon turned in at Kicks for Guns Event
Weapon turned in at Kicks for Guns Event

The Lake County Sheriff’s Department and the Mount Dora Police Department have partnered on the event over the past few years.  Serial numbers are run on guns that are collected to see if any have been reported stolen.  If they have been, and they are still in a safe condition to handle, they are forwarded to the agency where they were reported missing.  Guns collected in Lake County have been returned to locations as far away as North Carolina and Ohio.  Those guns collected that cannot be returned, are destroyed at an incinerator in accordance with statutes, according to Lake County Chief Deputy, Peyton Grinnell, who was on hand for the event.

On hand to support their staffs’ efforts, were Sheriff Gary Borders and Mount Dora Deputy Police Chief Robert Bell. Both are pleased with the event and the results they have consistently achieved through the program.  The two departments have a solid working relationship and often rely upon each other.  Borders says that in Mount Dora, like all municipalities in Lake County, the Police Chief is a sworn Deputy Sheriff, giving him the ability to go outside of the city limits in the performance of his duties.

Borders, who will be running for office again next year, has been Lake County’s Sheriff for nine years.  He says he’s very appreciative of the cooperation that occurs between his agency and Mount Dora’s.  “These types of events, as you can see, take a lot of staff.  Working together, we have enough people to make these types of events successful.”

Asked how often the Sheriff’s Office and the local police department work together, Borders says, “It’s generally not something that’s scheduled, like this.  We are constantly working together, though.  We work collectively with all of the local agencies so we can all throw everything we have, in the way of resources, at a problem or issue so we can resolve it.”

Bell agreed, saying, “If there’s something big going on in Mount Dora, or right outside the city limits, say in Sylvan Shores, the sheriff’s department knows they can depend on us and the Mount Dora PD can depend on them in Mount Dora.  We also have special units like drugs and cyber crime that interact with each other almost daily.”

Borders says that over the last few years, he has lost positions through budget tightening measures enacted by the County and he knows Mount Dora’s PD has faced similar conditions.  “We always worked together well,” he says. “But we probably have become more efficient in working together to pool resources.  Fortunately, we have some great partnerships with our local agencies, like Mount Dora.  It also makes good sense to work together whenever possible.  Rather than let our service be lacking in any way, we join together to fill any gaps that may have occurred over the course of budget cuts or the loss of personnel.  We jump in and help each other out.  The citizens expect that, and it’s how it should work.”

Dispatching of calls is a seamless cooperative effort that occurs on a regular basis, according the Sheriff. While calls to 911 from landlines in Mount Dora are directed to Mount Dora’s own police department dispatchers, calls to 911 from all mobile phones within Mount Dora (and all of the county) are handled through the sheriff department’s dispatch. If the mobile calls are found to originate in Mount Dora, the Sheriff’s dispatcher then transfers the call to Mount Dora’s dispatch.  According to Borders and Bell, that doesn’t slow response time down.  “Regardless of where the call comes in from, we monitor each other’s channels in the immediate area.  The officers and deputies monitor them within their cars.  We know what’s going on in their area outside of Mount Dora, and they know what we are dealing with here,” said Bell.

Borders added, “One of the best things that has ever happened for public safety in Lake County was when, nine or ten years ago, Lake County went to a county-wide radio system.  It was expensive, but honestly, for the efficiency and effectiveness of  response time, it has been great.”

“It’s especially helpful when we have a suspect on the move,” said Bell.  “They may be leaving our area, but a sheriff’s deputy who is in that area monitoring the calls can pick up on it – he’ll already have the vehicle description and the circumstances.”

Borders agreed the mutual monitoring of calls if beneficial.  “It works both ways,” he said. “I remember once when we worked a bad accident and didn’t have enough deputies available to block the highway for the helicopter to get in to get the accident victims from the scene.  Mount Dora was listening to the channel, and came over and blocked the road.  It was outside the city limits, they were only there a few minutes, but it was a tremendous help.”

Asked if there are ever conflicts between the agencies, Bell responded, “Sure there are times when we may disagree on an issue, but you don’t take that personally.  We have to work together, it’s not about getting feelings hurt, we don’t compete against each other.”

Borders agrees, “Regardless of the economy or the budget situation, citizens still want an effective, timely response when they call 911.  We all benefit from the strong relationship and sharing of resources that occurs.  We can’t be territorial.  Citizens don’t care what the markings are on the car that responds to their emergency when they need public safety. They just want assistance.  That’s what we’re all here to provide.”

Melissa DeMarco, Editor (editor@mountdoracitizen.com)