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By Carl Orth
The Suncoast News

NEW PORT RICHEY - More than 250 people listened Thursday night to the three candidates for Pasco County sheriff speak on law enforcement issues.
Sheriff Bob White, the incumbent Republican, squared off against Democratic challenger K.S. "Kim" Bogart and independent Bobby Kinzy.
White played up statistics that indicate Pasco crime rates are far below statewide averages.
Bogart sounded an alarm over rising violent crime statistics in reports compiled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Kinzy said the business experience he gained during a long career with Tampa Electric Co. would help him cope with budget problems at the sheriff's office, which, in turn, would boost the agency's effectiveness.

Highlights of the forum include:

Opening statements
BOGART: "Tonight is about choosing who will lead your sheriff's office for the next four years." He said a political mailer from the White campaign was "misleading, with cherry-picked and misleading numbers." During the "last two years the number of arrests have gone down while the number of violent crimes committed in our communities has increased 28 percent," Bogart said.
KINZY: "I've been in Florida all my life. I moved to Pasco County from Hillsborough County in the late '60s. I worked for Tampa Electric Co. and stayed there for 35 years. I've been married [to wife Mary] for 33 years. I have a distinguished background in organization and team-building skills."
WHITE: "I'm blessed to work alongside some of the best law enforcement professionals in Florida, if not the whole nation. We are responding to emergency calls twice as fast as my predecessor. And should you become a victim of crime, we are one-and-a-half times [more] likely to solve that crime today than we were eight years ago. We have doubled the daily average jail population. We implemented a volunteer policing program that is second to none. We integrated technology into the sheriff's office. And as a result, Pasco County is a safer place to live."

A moderator directed this question to White: "If gang activity has been overstated by political opponents, as you have maintained, why then did you assign four officers to gang activities?"
WHITE: "Actually we have more than that. We have a whole SWAT team ? that is assigned to vice and narcotics. Recently the attorney general just appointed me chairman to the Regional Gang Reduction Strategy Task Force. I think that we have been crying fire in a crowded room."
BOGART: "If the theater is on fire, I would hope somebody would yell fire," Bogart said. Three more people were assigned to gangs since he announced his candidacy, he said. A large jump in robberies between 2006 and 2008 could be attributed to "organized groups of criminals," he said.
KINZY: "If we have gangs in Pasco County, they should be the FFA [Future Farmers of America], 4-H and the Boys and Girls Clubs. I think the newspaper reported just last week there are something like nine to 12 different, identified gangs. Drugs are the driver behind the gangs. I think we need to have zero tolerance to drugs in Pasco County. Now is the time to nip [the gang problem] in the bud."
WHITE REBUTTAL: "I've asked how do we measure this holocaust that is coming down around us. We have the lowest violent crime of any other agency."
BOGART REBUTTAL: White "is failing to mention that Hillsborough County continues year after year to drive down their crime rate. Pinellas County has driven their crime rates down" until an uptick this year. "Pasco County, year after year, the crime rate continues to go up," according to FDLE numbers.
KINZY REBUTTAL: "The biggest problem is going to be budgetary. When we get that straightened out, [what we need] is a zero tolerance for drugs in Pasco County. We can start eliminating [gangs] before they do get a large toehold in here."

This question was directed to White: "Why should other county services be expected to bear the brunt of Amendment 1 spending limitations but not the sheriff's office?"
WHITE: "I do think protecting our citizens is job No. 1." Pasco ranks seventh among the 12 largest law enforcement agencies in the state, White said. Pasco's per capita cost is $143 compared to an average $332. "I have less than one deputy per 1,000 citizens."
BOGART: Said the sheriff's office has been "wasting approximately $250,000 a year in assigning vehicles to civilian employees." He would "evaluate positions and programs from the top down" if elected. He would redistrict patrol zones to boost efficiency. He will look at consolidation of services with the county.
KINZY: "I think butting heads is not the way to do it," he said in dealing with county commissioners.
WHITE REBUTTAL: "I speak for those who say ? 'we need more patrols in our neighborhoods, and there are bad guys who live across the street from me and I want them taken care of. I'm afraid I can't let my kids play in the yard.' I speak for those people." Bogart's charge of the wasted $250,000 is "poppycock," White said.
BOGART REBUTTAL: A sheriff must work with the county "to develop a realistic growth plan for the county, not to come in and ask for 119 new positions in a single budget year."
KINZY REBUTTAL: He has plenty of experience in budgets and he would "get back to common sense law enforcement."

Wire Service
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