By Hannah Wallace
On March 1 — the first official day of spring break season — Sgt. Dan Smith of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office took over leadership of the Siesta Key substation and community policing station.
“This is a great position to be in. We can really connect with the community out here on a deeper level and help make an impact,” he said. “And it’s a really nice place.”
Law enforcement experience: 13 years total, all with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office
Military experience: Marine Corps
What did you look forward to about the Siesta Key job?
“Community engagement. Going to the Siesta Key association meetings, connecting with the community on specific concerns, things that are specific to Siesta Key. With community policing, it’s a partnership between the community and the sheriff’s office. Sometimes there’s specific concerns that affect the community, and we can work together.”
What’s it been like?
“I started basically the first day of spring break operations, March 1. It’s been good so far. We’ve got a great crew out here helping me out, showing me the ropes. They’ve been out here and some of them have been doing it for quite a long time.
“I don’t think there’s been any surprises. We did a lot of planning [for spring break], and we put it in motion to keep everybody safe.”
Advice for seasonal residents?
“If they’re going to leave, just make sure all their doors are locked, windows are locked, alarm system is armed and monitored. It’s easy to overlook one window here or a slider there. Same thing with their vehicles: Make sure everything is locked.”
What do you want out-of-towners to know about visiting Siesta Key?
“We do our best to make contact with beach visitors and educate them. A lot of people are from different areas where the beach laws are different. For instance, we don’t allow glass on the beach, and there are specific beach hours. A lot of people ask if they’re allowed to drink on the beach. [They are.]”
Advice for beach-goers?
“Just come out and have a good time. Be respectful to each other and law enforcement and the community. And if people see us, wave, and we’ll wave back. Or stop and chat. We’re always happy to stop and talk. We have a smaller unit out here, and we pride ourselves on our connection to the community.”
What do you want people to know about law enforcement?
“That they can contact us about anything and everything. If there’s a very specific concern they have, people are apprehensive, they don’t want to call the sheriff’s office. I’ll hear about it from a third party—they tell someone who tells another that has a connection with me.
“I want for people not to be afraid to connect with us. If they have a concern, report it to us.”
What’s your favorite part about law enforcement?
“Interaction with the community. Being able to meet with the community and listen to their concerns and help them solve them.
“And make their day better.”