In the midst of writing tickets, serving warrants and taking people into custody Thursday night, Pasco County law enforcement members set out to do a simple service: Empowering citizens.
Inside Zephyrhills City Hall, members of the START, or Sheriff's Targeted Area Response Team, gathered before embarking on a six-hour operation inside the Zephyrhills city limits. The operation was expected to end at 9 p.m.
That mission included law enforcement, code enforcement, serving warrants and even animal control, in addition to several other tasks.
"One of the things that we try to stress in this effort is that we are serving our community in a strategic and complete way," Cpl. Alan Wilkett of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said. "There are three things that we look to do on this mission; the first is to empower our citizens. We want our citizens empowered to take their neighborhoods back. No citizen of Pasco County should feel afraid to walk down the streets of their community."
Wilkett said the other two goals were to educate the citizens and enforce any laws that are broken.
The group, an operation conducted by the sheriff's office, was originally named the Volunteer Community Resource Team. It handled the same duties as START.
About 50 members of the law enforcement community participated in Thursday's program, Wilkett said. The group is made up of members from the Dade City and Zephyrhills police departments, Pasco sheriff's office, Pasco County Code Enforcement, Pasco County Animal Control, and Florida Parole and Probation.
Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said he recalls the first time the effort took place. He said people were naturally curious about the saturation of the neighborhood with law enforcement members.
"This is one of those things where you keep hearing from people saying, 'I miss you in my neighborhood. I have this drug dealer. I have concerns with speeders.' As Alan (Wilkett) said, enforcement is big. Don't be afraid to do it."
Recently elected Zephyrhills Mayor Steve Van Gorden was happy to have this show of force in his town.
"I'm just excited to be here this afternoon," Van Gorden said. "I look out at all these faces that serve our community, you keep our residents and our streets safe. Without you guys, there would not be the community we have."
Officials estimate the operation produced about 100 combined actions.