Lots Of Changes For Eustis PD Under Direction Of New Chief

EUSTIS, Florida—It has been 9 months since Craig Capri became the chief of Eustis Police Department. And in those 9 months, the department has seen an numerous changes, including the promotions of nearly 22 percent of its sworn officers.

Quite a change from a department that under its last chief, Gary Calhoun, saw a tremendous amount of turnover and had six open positions when Calhoun left the office in 2021.

EPD is a small department with only 41 sworn law enforcement positions, including Capri. There are just two open positions with the recent swearing-in of two new officers earlier this month, Capri told Inside Lake.

Capri, who spent 31 years at Daytona Beach Police Department, brought big ideas with him from the much bigger department; DBPD has 241 sworn positions, compared to EPD’s 41. Since taking over the reins, Capri has encouraged his officers to become much more community oriented with the creation of the downtown officer position and he has hosted several events to engage the community.

“The police department is the most visible form of government,” Capri explained, “We’re involved in everything. People associate police with the city.”

EPD Chief Craig Capri speaks with a resident at Pizza with the Police, held at El Marie Pizzeria in August 2021. PHOTO/Inside Lake

The downtown officer position was created to target and prevent crime in the downtown area, especially the business district, Capri said. The downtown area has a large homeless population and Capri believes that is at least partially due to The Open Door, a homeless drop-in program provided by LifeStream located at 115 East Citrus Avenue, “We’ve had to clean it up,” he said.

“It’s a cool program, but the location doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t need to be downtown in the business district,” Capri told IL.

Capri believes some of the homeless people downtown are truly in need, some are contributing to the criminal element, and some may have mental health issues. In partnership with LifeStream and paid for by a grant, EPD with soon have a mental health counselor on staff to respond to calls with road patrol officers if needed.

“One of the things I want to do is address mental health,” Capri said. One of the first things he did as chief was send all his officers to Volusia County Sheriff’s Office for ICAT (Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics) training. Two EPD officers have now been trained in ICAT, so they can train newly hired officers, Capri said.

EPD officers speak with residents at Pizza with the Police, held at El Marie Pizzeria in August 2021. PHOTO/Inside Lake

Capri has hosted a bicycle ride for elementary age children, coffee with a cop, pizza with the police and most recently, shop with a cop in the short time he has been in Eustis. To continue with keeping his officers approachable, six bicycles will be available to road patrol officers to spend all or part of their shift on the bike, Capri said. He is an avid cyclist himself and participates in in Tour De Force 9/11 Memorial Bike Ride each year.

Newly promoted Cpl. Zach Steele is pinned by his father at a promotion ceremony held at City Hall earlier this month. PHOTO: Inside/Lake

A new unit will hit the streets soon to target problem areas in the city. The POP unit—Problem Oriented Policing—will target areas dealing with a large numbers of car burglaries, drug activity or any other problems residents bring to the attention of EPD. The unit will be led by a newly promoted corporal who will supervise three officers to combat issues that arise in the city.

Along with that corporal, Capri has also promoted two other officers to corporal, four corporals to sergeant, one sergeant to captain and one interim captain to a permanent captain position. EPD does not have a deputy chief.  

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