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Patrol is worth its weight in gold

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By Rog Patterson

Marion Landing Patrol president Rich Toneske suggested it might be useful to provide newer community residents with an update on how the patrol came to be, what it does and who makes it happen for the security of all of us. “We need their help,” he said.

I’ve heard of some newcomers saying, “Hey, I came down here to retire, not to get involved.” We’re all here to retire, but that’s certainly not the attitude that has made Marion Landing the great address it has become.

More than 20 years ago, when the Emmer Corporation began construction of what is now Marion Landing, they hired a security company. The result was a car driving in and around our fledgling community at 20 to 25 mph, making the circuit in 15 to 20 minutes and be gone.

As a matter of fact, as recently as 1997 while we rented here before buying our Marion Landing home, I recall watching the so-called security car cruising up and down S.W. 83rd Street for several evenings. What “bad stuff” the driver could actually see driving that fast, or what any “bad guys” watching his progress could be deterred by the car whizzing by, was very hard to imagine. Some $7,000 a year of our amenities fees were paying for this 20-minute quickie.

So in 1997, the Marion Landing homeowners took the initiative and, with the help and guidance of our Marion County Sheriff’s Office, organized something we called the Marion Landing Security Patrol.

A gentleman known as “the screwdriver bandit” must be given some kind of credit for encouraging this organization. The ongoing security patrol had not discouraged him from accomplishing several Marion Landing break-ins by lifting sliding doors off their tracks with his handy-dandy screwdriver.

The assumption back in those days was that a gated community was impervious to any screwdriver robber types, so Marion Landing was at risk. Turned out to be the other way around when the genuine article was actually caught doing his thing in a gated community.

Nevertheless, the Sheriff’s Office came to Marion Landing with all sorts of paperwork and training to get us under way legally and trained.

My co-pilot and I joined up back in 1997, as did many … perhaps even a majority … of present members. Initially, we drove our own cars with magnetic security patrol signs slapped on both front doors. It wasn’t till 1998 we were provided with an officially marked car by the Sheriff’s Office.

That was a 1989 Chevy, reputed to have been taken from during a drug bust, but none of us could image any respectable drug dealers admitting any connection with such a relic. It did, however, idle along beautifully at a 8 to 10 mph allowing the patrol to actually observe.

Nevertheless, a set of bylaws did get written and lead to more organization with actual membership and responsibilities. A board of directors was set up with officers and directors. Responsibilities for training, meetings, and solid connections with the Sheriff’s Office were established.

And a mission statement was created to conform with the way things were. It reads:

“It is the mission of Marion Landing Patrol to serve the residents of Marion Landing by being the eyes and ears for the Sheriff’s (Office) by providing a visible vehicular patrol throughout the sub-division bad any other areas requested by the Sheriff’s (Office) and maintain presence in the guard house during the most vulnerable hours for invasion.”

Old timers will notice that, along the way, our legal eagles advised getting rid of the “S” word. Calling it a security patrol might open the door for the lawyer of a robbery victim to claim they had not, in fact, been provided with promised or implied security. A real crock, but we acquiesced and now refer to this dedicated group of volunteer residents our Community Patrol.

Patrol duty amounts to a minimum of two hours a month, with four hours during the double shifts in summer, either in the patrol car or stationed at the community entrance guard house. Every 15 minutes the guard house crew provides time and okay checks with the patrolling vehicle.

Our patrol car, a 2004 Toyota Prius, is provided and serviced by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, and cruises nicely at 10 to 15 mph for thorough visual surveillance.

Each street, road, avenue, cul-de-sac and whatever in Marion Landing is patrolled two to three times during each two-hour shift. A courtesy patrol of Jasmine Plaza once a night at the Sheriff’s request is also provided.

Patrol car occupants do not … and may not … leave the patrol car during a shift for any reason other than personal safety, no matter what. If a situation arises where any kind of action other than surveillance is necessary, the patrol car is equipped with direct connection with the Sheriffs Office and the call for a deputy is sent.

Our Patrol members are, as stated above, the eyes and ears of the sheriff’s deputies, and do not participate in any other type of security action. The patrol has apparently discouraged the bad guys from messing with Marion Landing to the extent other communities receive their attention.

According to Capt. Jim Burton, commander of the Sheriff’s Southwest District office, your patrolling neighbors have made Marion Landing one of the safer places to live … yes, when even compared to the gated communities.

But to continue getting the job done requires either new blood to augment and replace the “old folks” who have been doing their thing for the past decade or an alternative. Outside security companies have been requested by Deeann Welsh to submit quotes and here’s the sad news.

One of two quotes received was for $36,348 a year for 24/7 patrol, which would amount to a $5.10 increase in monthly amenities fee for each and every homeowner. The only other quote received was $131,040 a year, or an additional $18.30 per month for each of us.

In 2003, Rich’s team had 184 members on the patrol roster. Today it’s down to 139 signed on to assure their neighbor’s homes as well as their own continue be less of a target for the bad guys.

Please consider joining our Marion Landing Community Patrol by giving Rich Toneske a call at 291-2424 to ask for more details. And tell Rich you’d like to know more about signing up for training, too.

Lorraine Who?

Submitted input about the mah-jongg tourney as received and after publication Lorraine DeMeaux called to say she ain’t the right one. Fran Szutar cleared things up by telling me it was her sister, Pat Jones, down from North Carolina for a visit, who helped with the coffee.

Azalea Days

Just a reminder that Azalea Days are coming up March 14 and 15 at Ravine Gardens in Palatka. A full review of the gardens is coming up, but in the meantime, check out http://www.floridastateparks.org/ravinegardens/doc for how to get there and so forth. And their Air Potato Rodeo is being held tomorrow ... don’t want to miss this one.

Did you know?

Do you know why zero tennis scores are called “love?” The game first became popular in France and a big round zero on the scoreboard looked to some like an egg, or l’oeuf in French.

So when the tennis arrived in America, l’oeuf sounded enough like “love” to the Yankee ear to become used for zilch ever since.

Rog Patterson is a Marion Landing resident and Friendship Kiwanis Club member. Contact him with news for the column, he’s in the Landing phone directory.