With the proposed budget cuts that are on the table comes potentially big changes in the way your traffic crashes are handled.
Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford says JSO will no longer be responding to crashes on state roads- a courtesy they had provided to give quicker response times, even though the crashes should be handled by the Florida Highway Patrol. Rutherford and multiple city councilmen have said FHP will face a big increase in workload if the cuts on the table stand.
So we took the question to FHP: can they handle the change?
“We’re up for the challenge,” says Captain Keith Gaston.
Gaston says they have been considering a number of changes in service for years, but this most recent budget problem has pushed them in to action. When the Sheriff began to see that changes would be necessary he took the concerns for FHP executive management and once they agreed to step up, Gaston says he started ironing out the details for exactly where the changes would happen.
Beginning Monday, FHP is changing their defined “zones” moving to fewer zones with more patrols each, rather than the five or six more secluded zones in place.
He is expecting the biggest problems to occur during morning and evening rush hour. During those times, FHP will also bring in specialty officers, like traffic homicide detectives or motorcycle patrols, to help with the increase in workload.
Gaston has little hesitation about their ability to implement these changes effectively.
“Let us do what we do best and handle the crashes. It may take us a few minutes to get there, but when we’re there we’ll give you the dedication to make sure your crash is done properly,” he says.
The response time is one of the biggest changes the Sheriff says will take place. Gaston says it will take them a little longer than it would have taken JSO, but these new changes will cut that down. Additionally, once on-scene, he says FHP has the technology to handle the crash scene more efficiently. For example, FHP patrols are equipped with card scanner that can read a license and input data on forms automatically, where local patrols often have to fill out the same forms by hand.
Gaston says the changes are really nothing new for FHP. He says Duval County is actually one of the last counties in the state to step away entirely from crashes on state roads. That’s not to say there won’t be some growing pains, but he asks residents to be patient in the beginning, while the new system is put in place and the wrinkles are ironed out.