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Sheriff has his own night on the town; Deltona stays quiet on New Year’s Eve

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood and Deputy Paul Mele check up on a young couple in a car in a Walmart Supercenter parking lot. 

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood and Deputy Paul Mele check up on a young couple in a car in a Walmart Supercenter parking lot. 

BEACON PHOTOS/AL EVERSON

Sheriff Mike Chitwood and two deputies respond to a report of an intoxicated customer leaving a 7-Eleven convenience store.

For the second time since he became Volusia County’s top lawman, Sheriff Mike Chitwood celebrated New Year’s Eve by going on patrol in Deltona.

The high sheriff was ready to cast his dragnet over any miscreants and strayers moved to misdeeds by a full moon and the year-ending holiday, including anyone shooting off illegal fireworks. 

Chitwood enthusiastically joined his deputies in watching the streets of the county’s biggest city — and he took two Beaconites with him.

But there would be no danger this night in Deltona.

The evening began as Chitwood arrived at the Sheriff’s Office’s Deltona substation on Providence Boulevard and teamed up with Deputy Paul Mele, who would be the driver. 

The patrol car’s back seat was separated from the front by a cage. Behind it, this writer and his riding and writing partner, Erika Webb, wondered briefly if we might be taken to jail, which is where some people believe this writer belongs.

This year, we members of the press were required to wear bulletproof vests. They fit snugly, and actually helped ward off the chill.

The first call of our night came from a nearby 7-Eleven, where the clerk had reported an intoxicated female customer. He feared she might get into a car and drive away impaired. 

Spotting the subject in the convenience-store parking lot, Chitwood and Mele determined she was not driving, but walking. Their concern was genuine; they asked her to call for help getting home, if she needed to.

Back in the cruiser, Chitwood and Mele headed north on Providence Boulevard and stopped a truck missing a muffler.

“You could smell the exhaust,” Chitwood said, as he stood back from the vehicle.

Mele checked the driver’s license and auto registration, and then let the driver go with a warning to repair his exhaust system. In keeping with the season of peace and good will, the lawmen showed no interest in a harsh crackdown on motorists who are otherwise obeying the law.

Chitwood voiced empathy for the downtrodden in the area, noting he and his deputies had gotten a feel for the hard-pressed condition of many Deltona families during their pre-Christmas “Shop With a Cop” outreach effort.

“These people are the working poor,” Chitwood said. He spoke of one family that deputies learned had nothing for Christmas.

At a car-versus-tree accident on Elkcam Boulevard, Chitwood and Mele stopped to check with other deputies already on the scene. No one was hurt, Chitwood said, as we wondered how fast the tree was going.

At that moment, there was a dispatch call about a man beating up a woman at a Walmart Supercenter. The unit scrambled to the scene and drove through the parking lot, finding nothing matching the description. Chitwood found a young couple in a car, but they told him they were having no problems.

On this night, at the urging of Deltona city officials, the sheriff and his deputies were supposed to suppress the use of fireworks. As artillery boomed in the distance all around, Chitwood and Mele were on the hunt for loud and spectacular neighborhood celebrations when a call came regarding someone knocking on windows at a home on Puerto Rico Drive. 

The lawmen walked around the property with flashlights, but no suspects could be found.

Shortly afterward, Mele and Chitwood stopped a truck on Albury Avenue whose tag light was burned out. Here again, a warning sufficed.

Finally, Chitwood and Mele happened upon a case of someone having a blast for the New Year’s holiday. In front of a house on Dana Drive, the evidence of spent ordnance was clearly visible, even though a young woman scurried to dispose of some of the debris when she saw the patrol car approaching.

Instead of threatening her and confiscating her fireworks, Chitwood handed the woman a copy of the city law forbidding the use of fireworks and asked her to stop. She promised she would, and the encounter ended amicably.

Chitwood was watching Mele handle a traffic stop on Lake Helen Osteen Road when word came over the radio of bullets hitting a church on West Beresford Avenue in DeLand. 

The dispatcher reported that parishioners inside were having a fellowship meal before dropping to the floor to avoid being hit. 

No one was hurt, and no suspects were found in connection with what appears to have been celebratory gunfire — a dangerous act that is against the law and has been responsible for deaths and serious injuries.

Back in Deltona, as the search for illegal fireworks displays continued, Chitwood and Mele stopped a truck for an equipment violation: two red lights on the front, along with a grill lighted in red, giving it the appearance of being an emergency vehicle. Once again, the driver was not cited, but simply warned to get rid of the red lights.

While patrolling on Saxon Boulevard, the pair spotted a truck with no headlight on its right side. The light assembly was missing from the crumpled fender. 

Yet again, the driver was cautioned to correct the safety violation.

As a report about a reckless driver came over the radio, there was also a call about a loud party at a home on a cul-de-sac along North Normandy Boulevard. 

Upon arrival, the partiers welcomed Chitwood, and even invited him to join the fun. Smiling, Chitwood and Mele shook hands with the celebrants and resumed their patrol.

The patrol — about 11 p.m. Dec. 31 to almost 2 a.m. Jan. 1 — passed without a major incident in Deltona — just as Chitwood had hoped it would.

— Al Everson, al@beacononlinenews.com

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