Over the last four years the Pinellas County police in Florida have been facing the issue of balancing the need for budget cuts with the need to keep the justice system in the county running smoothly and efficiently. The area of the police force most significantly affected by this issue has been those who deal with the way arrest warrants are handled in the county. The police officers in Pinellas whose express purpose was to deal with outstanding warrants and all related tasks fell victim to the cuts while working under sheriff Jim Coats. Although Coats’ decision to cut jobs in the area of arrest warrants was a wise one insofar as it saved the county $1.6 million dollars within a year, it has led to what many view as an excessive amount of outstanding warrants sitting around with no one to complete them.
This issue is troublesome because criminals left un-arrested are potential ongoing threats to the community. Many believe that offenders are likely to reoffend, and in some cases, commit worse crimes than they had originally committed. In light of this, and due to the fact that there is currently an election taking place in Pinellas County for a new sheriff, whether or not Coats’ decision was the best that could be made at the time is up for debate. One side asserts that, per capita, there are more outstanding arrest warrants in Pinellas than ever before, exceeding all other counties in Tampa Bay. Those who agree with the cut made my Coats, however, are citing statistics that show an overall decline in outstanding warrants. This method of cutting the county budget may or may not persist, dependent upon the outcome of the county sheriff election. Who wins this race will determine how arrest warrants within the county are handled in the future.