From his desk in the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office field office in Ponte Vedra Beach, Commander Brian Harrington has a good view of the approach to the busy intersection of A1A and Mickler Road.
Located at 1108 A1A N., #105, the field office serves SJSO’s northeast region, and offers easy access to the Beaches area for the command staff and deputies who work out of the office. SJSO moved into the office a year ago after outgrowing their previous space in the St. Johns County Tax Collector’s office on Palm Valley Road.
“We were so cramped,” Harrington said. “We had to expand.”
In addition to offering space for Harrington and his command staff -- including a lieutenant, sergeant and corporal – the Ponte Vedra field office offers a private interview room where deputies can meet with residents as well as space where staff can stop in, complete reports, package evidence and handle other administrative tasks.
For local residents, the office provides convenient access to a wide range of public safety services that otherwise would require travel to St. Augustine. From initiating employment background checks and fingerprinting to filing and picking up accident or crime reports, local residents can save themselves a trip to SJSO’s main headquarters and address those tasks at the Ponte Vedra office, which is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The office is closed from noon to 1 p.m. for lunch.
“Basically any report you could get at the sheriff’s office in St. Augustine, you can get at the field office,” Sgt. Jim Priester said. “The only exception would be older reports that have already been archived, and those can be emailed to people.”
Other than major crimes such as homicide or cases involving the Special Victims Unit, Priester added, the field office deputies can address any public safety issues or concerns residents may have. In Ponte Vedra, Harrington said, the majority of calls they receive involve property crimes.
“The single biggest issue we deal with is car burglaries – people not locking their car doors,” said Harrington, noting that it’s a crime that tends to increase in the summer when school is out. “It’s a very easy problem to attack, as we can increase heavy routine patrols.”
In addition to urging residents to lock their vehicles, Harrington stressed not to leave handbags, wallets or valuables in plain sight in a locked car, as burglars may break a window to get them. He also encouraged residents to report crimes to the field office instead of posting information on social media, where it can get distorted as people share it and misinterpret key details. He pointed to a recent situation where social media posts referred to a “rash of car break-ins” in a particular neighborhood, causing concern among residents. In reality, there had been just one incident.
“(Social media) is a big, big issue,” he said. “It’s very critical that people have accurate information. Don’t take it as gospel just because you saw it online.”
Sometimes, residents will report what they believe to be a crime, and when deputies follow up as part of the office’s “victim call-back program,” they learn that new information has come to light.
“Someone may report that their mailbox was vandalized,” Harrington said, “and when we check back later, we learn that a neighbor accidentally knocked it over.”
Harrington urged residents to call the field office to report crimes or if they hear reports that concern them. The Ponte Vedra field office can be reached at (904) 209-2215; the countywide non-emergency number is (904) 824-8304.