By Matt Wiley
Shoppers should be on their best behavior because there’s a new sheriff in Wesley Chapel. Well, not a new sheriff, but there is a new Pasco County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) substation now open at the Shops at Wiregrass Mall.
The 1,535-square-foot substation was constructed using inmate labor and will serve as PCSO’s District Office for southeast Pasco County.
“We saved thousands of dollars — taxpayer dollars — using inmate labor,” said Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco to the crowd of about 130 during the ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 26. “We were also able to use federal forfeiture dollars — drug money — to build this out. This was a shell before. The best part about it is we’re using drug dealer money to give something back to our community.”
The station also will be a resource center for volunteers, citizen support services and for fingerprinting.
“Crime prevention specializes in education, empowerment and equipping,” said Cpl. Alan Wilkett, addressing the crowd gathered around the station. “This new office will allow all of those tenets of crime prevention to be accomplished.”
Pasco County commissioner Ted Schrader and Pasco Clerk of Court Dr. Paula O’Neil also were in attendance, along with representatives from the Wesley Chapel, Central Pasco and Pasco/Hernando Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.
“We’re glad to be here and as of this day, we’re going to be open, we’re going to be functioning and we’re going to make a difference in our community,” Wilkett said.
The new substation is located next to Dillard’s in the mall, at 38239 Paseo Dr. The ribbon cutting ceremony took place at 11:30 a.m. Shoppers were able to interact with the Mounted Posse (PCSO deputies on horseback) and take a look at one of the Sheriff’s Office’s Crime Combat Vehicles.
“(The substation) was much needed out here,” Sheriff Nocco said. “Wesley Chapel is a growing area in our county and the intersection of S.R. 56 and Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. is a major corridor. We have hospitals coming in; we have businesses that are growing here. This is a major component of our community.”