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Behind the Badge: On patrol with North Port's Special Enforcement Team

Behind the Badge: On patrol with North Port's Special Enforcement Team
Posted at 5:00 PM, May 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 08:11:28-04

Police work can take officers and deputies off the main road, and that's just what the North Port Special Enforcement Team, or SET, does daily.

ABC7 was able to go off-roading with them to see how a typical work day goes.

“S, 133 North Port 10-50,” radioed Sargent Fred Meyers.

“Be on Yorkshire at the I-75 overpass. Red pickup truck towing a trailer no visible 28. It's a boat trailer,” radioed Meyers.

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Our day with Sergeant Fred Meyers of the North Port Special Enforcement Team began without a trailer tag.

“How come you don't have a tag on your trailer?” Meyers asked the driver he pulled over.

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Sergeant Meyers is the SET leader. He doesn't normally pull people over for traffic stops but just a few minutes earlier we drove up on the man trying to back his boat into private property connected to a lake.

This is what SET does. Keeping an eye on the mostly abandoned parts of North Port.

“This is what riders call the civic hole. A really popular spot with ATV's and mud trucks as you can see there's trails and tracks and spots where when we have rain it gets bogged out,” Sergeant Meyers said, explaining a large dirt hole in the ground.

The area is prime for parties and some have gotten out of hand.

“We've had several stabbings, shootings, there's a lot of criminal activity that comes out of party's,” said Officer Michael Coffs.

During our day, we were in a police Chevy Tahoe, but it could only go so far without getting stuck in soft sand. That's where the ATV's come in handy.

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“We're able to go in the woods and basically patrol where our law enforcement vehicles can't go,” said Officer Coffs.

We came upon the makings of an impending party.

“They've got these skids and these logs here. They've got the fixings for a first class bonfire so this is probably going to be a party spot this coming weekend,” said Sargent Meyers.

North Port sanitation staff later came and removed the fire wood.

“They're very good at talking to people,” said Assistant Police Chief Mike Pelfrey.

The officers are hand picked for their gift of gab. Talking to form relationships is a must.

“They can look for specific challenges in a neighborhood and address those and not be worried about calls for service coming in,” said Pelfrey.

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Officer James Litherand is one of the bicycle officers.

“When you're in a car all they see is a vehicle go by. They'll wave, we'll wave back. That's all the interaction we have. Being out here on a bicycle I can stop and communicate with them, they can talk back,” said Litherand.

That's exactly what Officer Litherand did. He stopped to ask a resident if he had seen anything out of the ordinary.

As for the driver of that truck and trailer, Sergeant Meyers issued him a warning. Thus, another relationship was formed. Meyers hopes the man will tell his friends to stay away.

After 16 years on the force Meyers told us every day is an adventure. Although, he still gets nervous when he makes a stop.

“Every time walking up to a vehicle on a stop you just never know who you're going to encounter. That's part of why we do the job, the unknown.”

According to the North Port Police Department, SET has had encouraging luck getting to the bottom of those car burglaries. They are continuing their work, hoping anyone who goes out to those party's look over their shoulders.