Hillsborough County elementary schools will have an SRO for the rest of the school year

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. - Students at Hillsborough County elementary schools will return from winter break to a change in scenery.

Tampa Police and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office plan to allocate 155 officers for school safety. Each elementary school will now model the high school and middle school resource officer program.

"Regardless of the man-power shortage, regardless of the money, our Sheriff feels that you can't put a price on a child's life," explained HCSO Lt. Chad Chronister.

"We're going to pay deputies off-duty overtime money to come to work early and stay late."

The decision will be costly for the sheriff's office, which now has to find $1.9 million in their already tight budget. Tampa police won't accrue any extra costs because they plan to use all on-duty officers.

But many other districts, like Pasco County, say they can't afford to make the change. Pinellas has no plans to do so. Polk will revisit the concern on Monday. Sarasota will discuss the issue at their meeting January 22.

"Most of our school districts do not have the dollars, the resources, to be able to expand a very good successful program, our school resource officer program, into our elementary schools," said Rep. Mike Fasano.

Fasano recently wrote Governor Scott, asking him to consider adding an SRO category to the state budget, so each school district will have the option of choosing to expand their program to cover elementary schools.

 "Where there's a school resource officer, we've seen less crime and less incidents," Fasano said.

"That's why they've been so successful."

The sheriff's office still isn't sure where they'll find the money in their budget, but plan to move forward anyway.

"We got unanimous feedback from parents and from students that they felt better going to school knowing someone was there," said Hillsborough Co. Schools Spokesman Steve Hegarty.

"We are very grateful that coming back on Monday we'll be able to tell parents that this is in place."

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