The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office, one of the country’s largest sheriff’s departments, is critically short on deputies, creating a major stress for coverage against threats of terrorism, drunk driving, and general public safety.

“We do have a shortage, but I can tell you right now we have no shortage of dedication and drive,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Larry McKinnon. “It does create an extra workload, but we’ve been able to overcome that shortage by managing our resources.”

Officials noted that the staff get stretched extra thin on a holiday weekend like the 4th of July.

Hillsborough Sheriff office badge patch logoTo put the numbers in perspective, the national average for officers-per-citizen is about 2.6 for every thousand.

Hillsborough County, the sixth-largest sheriff’s office in the United States, has just 1.4 deputies for every thousand people. With a ratio that far below the national average deputies say their secret weapon in surveillance is the community.

“No matter how many officers you have out on the street, how many deputies you have out on the street, there’s nothing more powerful than the community,” said McKinnon. “When you have that commitment and bond between our community and law enforcement I think, even though you have a critical shortage, you can spell out success. For every set of eyes we have, they have hundreds more, and nobody knows more about who belongs in a neighborhood and who doesn’t than those that live there.”

McKinnon says, in spite of the shortage, the county has its lowest violent crime rate since 1985 thanks in large part to neighborhood watch programs and the “see something, say something” campaign.

He also says part of the reason for the shortage is the fact that the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has some of the strictest hiring criteria for law enforcement.

If you’re interested in learning more about applying for an open position with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, click here.