Seminole County is a centrally located Florida county with more than 354,000 residents. The County lies to the northeast of Orlando and Orange County, and recently has been one of the fastest growing areas in the State. Seminole County, geographically, is rather small with only 298 square miles of land, but due to its increasing population, the County now ranks as the third most densely populated county in Florida. Traditionally, the County's economy has been driven by agriculture, but within the last 30 years the tourism industry has grown, as a number of popular tourist attractions have been established both in and around Seminole County. The numbers of licensed drivers within the County, as of January 1 of each year from 1990 through 2000, were provided by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Division of Driver Licenses. (Figures were not available for 1993.) As Figure 46 below indicates, there has been a steady increase in the number of licensed drivers within Seminole County over the past decade.
Figure 46: Seminole County Licensed Drivers, 1990-2000
The Seminole County Sheriff's Office provides law enforcement services and community support throughout the County. The LEA is divided into four specifically organized units, which include corrections, neighborhood policing, metro services, and staff services. The neighborhood policing unit houses the general patrol and, therefore, handles most traffic enforcement.
The Department considers traffic safety one of its largest problems and encounters more feedback from the public concerning traffic issues than in any other aspect of its police work. Speeding generally is the top complaint received from neighborhoods and communities above all other types of criminal behavior. The Sheriff is responsive to these public needs and, reportedly, supports an aggressive approach to traffic enforcement. The neighborhood general patrol regularly responds to citizen complaints, which may identify traffic safety issues which need to be addressed. The Sheriff's Office researches traffic trends throughout the County. Furthermore, the Sheriff's Office takes part in the City/County/State Traffic Unit, which is a group of agency representatives from all of the LEAs within Seminole County, including the Florida Highway Patrol and the Department of Motor-Carrier Compliance. This group meets monthly and conducts special operations focused on DUI, truck enforcement issues, and speeding, among other traffic-related problems. The Department's work with this unit creates a multi-faceted approach by the Sheriff's Office toward enforcement of traffic laws.
The Seminole County Sheriff's Office regularly utilizes radar and laser equipment for speed enforcement, as well as speed monitoring trailers (SMART cars) which are used daily throughout the County. Further equipment for anti-DUI enforcement, such as portable breath-testing devices also are utilized by the Department. Much of the Agency's anti-DUI enforcement work is grant funded and allows for the Department to employ a full-time grant writer on staff to further pursue funding opportunities. Currently, the Seminole County Sheriff's Office has federal funds from the Department of Transportation and also grants from other funding sources.
The following data were retrieved from the Florida Uniform Traffic Citation Statistics for the Sheriff's Office in Seminole County and for the Florida Highway Patrol operating in Seminole County. Figure 47 shows the numbers of total traffic-related violations for 1989 through 1997 for these two LEAs. There has been a strong upward trend in traffic enforcement by the Sheriff's Office in Seminole County, with large increases in the total numbers of citations issued during 1992 and 1993. However, during discussions with the Agency, no specific reasons could be given for the increased activity during those years. The reverse is true for the Florida Highway Patrol operating within Seminole County, with a declining trend over the same period of time.
Figure 47: Seminole County Sheriff and Florida Highway Patrol (Seminole County)
Total Violations, 1989-1997
Figure 48 shows the total traffic citations split into criminal, non-criminal and non-moving violations. The non-criminal violations category includes speeding, careless driving, and all moving infractions (e.g., improper turning, following too closely, running a red light). The criminal violations category includes DUI, reckless, fleeing, leaving a crash scene, and various driver licensing violations. The non-moving violations category includes safety belt violations, unsafe equipment, and no proof of insurance, along with bicycle and pedestrian infractions.
Figure 48: Seminole County Sheriff's Office - Violation Categories, 1989-1997
Next, we extracted those violations with the largest number of citations. Figure 49 shows speeding violations for 1989-1997, which have declined for both LEAs.
Figure 49: Seminole County Sheriff and Florida Highway Patrol (Seminole County)
Figure 50 shows the combined violations concerning driver licenses for the Sheriff's Office (e.g., expired, suspended, revoked).
Figure 50: Seminole County Sheriff's Office - Driver License Violations, 1989-1997
Figure 51 shows the number of DUI violations from 1989-1997. For the Seminole County Sheriff's Office, there were large increases in the numbers of violators apprehended in 1992. And beginning in 1996, a trend began upward again. For the FHP, there was a steady decline.
Figure 51: Seminole County Sheriff and Florida Highway Patrol (Seminole County)
DUI Violations, 1989-1997
Figure 52 depicts safety belt citations from 1989-1997 issued by the Seminole County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Highway Patrol. As Figure 52 shows, there was a large increase in the number of citations written for safety belt violations handled by the Sheriff's Office beginning in 1992 through 1994. However, our contact could not recall the reason for the increased number of citations. Both LEAs show increasing trends in the number of citations issued for safety belt violations, with the Highway Patrol writing more citations for these types of violations.
Figure 52: Seminole County Sheriff and Florida Highway Patrol (Seminole County)
Safety Belt Violations, 1989-1997
Figure 53 shows the numbers of adult safety belt citations written versus child restraint citations by the Seminole County Sheriff's Office.
Figure 53: Seminole County Sheriff's Office - Safety Belt Violations, 1989-1997
And, finally, Figure 54 shows the combined number of citations issued by the Seminole County Sheriff's Office for reckless (defined as a criminal violation resulting in arrest) and careless (defined as a moving violation) driving. There is a definite upward trend for these types of aggressive driving violations.
Figure 54: Seminole County Sheriff's Office - Reckless/Careless Violations, 1989-1997
The numbers of licensed drivers within Seminole County have been increasing steadily over the past decade. Citizen complaints, especially regarding speeding, have resulted in increased traffic law enforcement by the Seminole County Sheriff's Office. The data suggest that the State Police operating within Seminole County have decreased overall traffic law enforcement activity as measured by citations. This reflects the statewide trends as well. Thus, the increase in citation volume by the Sheriff's Office has likely not depressed the FHP activity, but rather may reflect an increase in overall traffic enforcement activity in the County.