Tag Archives: florida

DeBary gives nod to negotiate with possible fireworks vendor

DeBary is negotiating with a small Ormond Beach company to run the city’s next annual Fourth of July festival.

But if a deal can’t be forged with Festival Designs, city staffers are prepared to manage the party at Gemini Springs, interim City Manager Ron McLemore recently told City Council members.

Ron McLemoreThe event draws 7,000 to 10,000 attendees from across Central Florida.

Festival Designs was the only company to respond by the deadline when DeBary put out feelers for potential vendors online, said Parks and Recreation Director John Fletcher.

Eleven entities downloaded information about DeBary’s event, which was posted on myvendorlink.com, Fletcher said.

Terms and conditions

On Jan. 17, the City Council authorized McLemore to negotiate with Festival Designs and make a recommendation about whether the city should hire the company.

A contract would have to be approved by the City Council, McLemore said.

“So, as part of this, we will be evaluating them as well as studying and negotiating terms and conditions,” he added.

DeBary entered the market for a party planner after McLemore and some council members expressed concerns about an arrangement with a nonprofit that ran the show annually since 2011.

CPPI ‘handshake’ deal

A DJ’s burst of profanity-laced music just before the fireworks display on July 4, 2017 prompted city officials to take a closer look at their deal with Community Partnership Program Inc. (CPPI).

They realized they had no official agreement with CPPI, even though DeBary contributes thousands for the cost of fireworks, security, and staffing.

Last year, for example, the city’s cost was about $35,000.

McLemore called it a “handshake” deal that left responsibilities unclear and exposed the city to certain liabilities.

‘People like to get involved’

The City Council, in a 4-1 vote, agreed on Nov. 15 to seek proposals from other entities.

Stephen Bacon
Stephen Bacon

Council member Stephen Bacon, who cast the dissenting vote, went along with the recent decision to negotiate with Festival Designs. But he still expressed an interest in having a community-based operator like CPPI.

“People like to get involved,” Bacon said.

Bob Garcia
Bob Garcia

Mayor Bob Garcia’s response:  “It’s not as easy as you think it is, sir,”

Festival Designs said in a letter to DeBary that it is licensed with Volusia County and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Festival Designs pitch

“As a graduating company of the UCF Business Incubator Program in 2013, started by Volusia County, Festival Designs has grown to provide festival and event management services to several regional events,” the letter said. “These include the World Rowing Championships in September, Christmas Tree Experience in November, the Chuck Strauser Candy Cane 5k in December.”

Cathy Pulliam, a 35-year resident and veteran office manager with experience in finance and law,  is the sole member of Festival Designs LLC.

“Scott Chesley is the Director of Operations and will be the primary contact,” the letter added.

Chesley has more than 38 years of festival design, layout, and event management experience and has participated in more than 3,000 festivals and events.

“The purpose of Festival Designs is to create events of any size that exceed the expectations of the attendees and enhance the community, the city and this region,” the letter added.

Festival Designs,

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DeBary’s Grindstone Sinners: Young rockers aiming high

Jay’s fingers fly across the frets.
Daniel hammers hard on the drums.
Jeff’s bass thunders, loud and low.
Then Ashlyn dives in with soul and sass.
“He could pass his time, around some other line,” Ashlyn bellowed.
“But you know he chose this place beside her.”
This is Grindstone Sinners — a fledgling, young-adult DeBary rock and rhythm and blues band — belting out their version of Jerry Garcia’s They Love Each Other.

‘It all just really, really clicked’

They are sweating and smiling in this practice session in a converted garage where bassist Jeff Hunt lives with his parents.
Jeff, drummer Daniel Conner and guitarist Jay Umlauf grew up together in this bedroom community halfway between Orlando and Daytona Beach.
Lead vocalist Ashlyn Weidemiller – once a choir singer – is an alto (the lowest female voice) whose style has been compared to 1960s American rock icon Janis Joplin.
After Ashlyn joined following a chance encounter with Daniel in high school, the band took off, even though the band’s name didn’t surface until later. The talent jelled immediately.
“It all just really, really clicked,” Daniel said, “and then we realized how lucky we were to actually all successfully find each other in such a close area and know each other for a long time.”

Awards, tryouts

Grindstone Sinners practice in a Haight-Ashbury-inspired band cave dripping with psychedelic images and illuminated by a single spiral fluorescent light bulb.
Nurtured by their parents’ taste in music,  band members say their influences include The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles.
And, if everything goes as planned, Grindstone Sinners will be rocking for a long time.
Old enough to vote but too young to drink, band members want to jam for the rest of their lives as professional musicians.
They know they face an uphill battle but are encouraged by youthful enthusiasm, talent honed by years of practice and a string of industry and social-media successes.

Jay Umlauf
Jay Umlauf

Jay, after all, was just named 2017 Musician of the Year by Songwriters Showcases of America.
The band landed finalist spots in other categories, including getting consideration for Song of the Year, Band of the Year, Most Unique Style and Songwriter of the Year (Jay).
The band recently tried out for America’s Got Talent and hopes to hear by February if it has made it to the next round.
Grindstone Sinners (with 600 Facebook followers) is on Reverb Nation, Spotify, iTunes and Google Play Music. The foursome – all 18-year-olds – is becoming increasingly popular, appearing at breweries, music festivals and local clubs across Florida.

Philips Phile boost

They’re working hard at building a dedicated fan base — an effort that picked up speed with the help of Real Radio 104.1’s Jim Philips and the Philips Phile show.
The show played Grindstone Sinners’ cover of The Sky Is Crying by Elmore James about a year ago.
“That’s good,” Philips said as their tune howled in the background. “Wow.”
Formed two years ago, Grindstone Sinners recently released its first high-end CD and is branching into merchandising, including selling its first professionally designed T-shirts – colorful tie-dyes with the band’s new logo.
But this night they’re shaking their makeshift studio – half of an enclosed garage attached to Jeff’s parents’ house on Colomba Drive.
Jeff, Jay and Daniel have been buddies since kindergarten at DeBary Elementary School.
Jeff and Jay played instruments in elementary school and Daniel joined them in jazz band in middle school.
They began playing together for fun in the 7th grade. The guys even whipped out an  Iron Maiden song for a middle-school talent show.(Ashlyn later realized she performed during the same show. She sang a Broadway show tune.)
Daniel met Ashlyn of Orange City at University High School when they were put together for a group project in English class.
They soon realized they shared musical interests.

A singing baby

Ashlyn Weidemiller and Jeffrey Hunt
Ashlyn Weidemiller and Jeffrey Hunt

Ashlyn attributes her love of music to her mother, recalling how they enjoyed signing Pat Benatar and Norah Jones songs while she was growing up.
“As soon as I learned how to form sound out of my mouth, I was singing – even if it wasn’t words,” she said. “I was a singing baby, you know?”
Their cramped jam room is heavily insulated — concrete block walls largely contain stray guitar riffs and random bass burps. They don’t play too late. And the neighbors are cool, so there’s no problem if their jams filter outside at times. Inside, the mish-mash of decorations include Grindstone Sinner gear and memorabilia honoring their musical inspirations, including a giant Grateful Dead tapestry.
Guitars, amps and a drum kit share space with the family’s second refrigerator, a washer and dryer and a bench from Jeff’s van. They recently took a road trip in Jeff’s van to see Dead and Company, the John Mayer-fronted group featuring three founding members of the Grateful Dead. They already have plans to see the band when it comes to Orlando in February.

Working hard off stage

Grindstone Sinners perform about two to three shows each month. Popular venues include Daytona Beach and DeLand, though they’ve rocked at shows as far away as Gainesville and Miami.
To make ends meet, they all have jobs outside of the spotlight.
Jeff, the bassist, works in residential construction.
Daniel busses tables when he isn’t drumming.
Ashlyn is a hostess at Texas Roadhouse in Orange City.
Jay, the guitarist, just landed a job at the new Guitar Center in Daytona Beach. (His employee discount comes in handy for the band).
Although band members appreciate the steady income from the traditional jobs, they’re determined to make music their lifetime labors of love.
They’re doing that by working hard, making sure everyone who catches their shows has a great time.
After all, they get a kick when they get positive feedback from concertgoers.

Getting more fans

On the business side of things, they’ve already worked out copyright questions — issues that have become thorny with other bands – by deciding to share equally regardless of who wrote the work.
“If one person was gone, none of it would work,” Jeff said.
Their first CD, released in October, was part of a longer-term investment in raising the band’s profile.
It cost about $3,500 — all paid for with money they made by playing gigs. That covered the cost of the CDs, studio time and professional mastering.
Revenue from CD sales goes back into the band account.
“The thing is, right now, at this point it’s not really about making money off the band,” Jay said. “It’s about getting our name out there so we can really start to expand that fan base with more people picking up our music, knowing our name, knowing who we are. Then eventually the fan base will keep expanding.”
That will come through word of mouth, social-media buzz and professional networking.
As they get more popular, they plan to land gigs as opening acts, eventually become the headliner.

‘We want to make music’

Their strong work ethic isn’t just a mutually shared philosophy for success.
It’s also a mantra ingrained, albeit it subtly,  in their name.
Daniel’s dad came up with Grindstone Sinners by using a random band-name generator online.  Daniel wasn’t sure about the name at first. But his dad broke it down. Then Daniel was sold.
Nine-to-5 workers face the grindstone, the job that pays the bills but isn’t necessarily their passion. Sinners go against the grain.
“Grindstone sinners… technically means people who are sinning against workforce, not trying to work,” Daniel said with a laugh. “So in a sense, we’re Grindstone Sinners. We don’t want to work. We want to do what we love. We want to make music.”
Added Ashlyn: “We want to work hard but not in the sense that everyone else is working.”
Jay agreed, saying the name means band members “do what we love instead of just what’s ‘practical.'”

Grindstone Sinners: Upcoming shows:

  • JAN. 13
    The Ormond Brewery
    301 Division Ave #15, Ormond Beach
  • JAN. 28
    Jam Night At The Rok Bar!
    308 Seabreeze Blvd, Daytona Beach
  • FEB. 10 -11
    Main Street Festival
    Main St, Daytona Beach
  • MARCH 9
    The Orlando Brewery
    1301 Atlanta Ave, Orlando
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Duke Energy slammed by otherwise thankful DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia

DeBary Diner got a shout out for providing free meals to city workers during Hurricane Irma.  Walmart and Winn-Dixie were praised.

Walgreens got attaboys for filling prescriptions during the emergency. Gas stations received thanks for calling DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia about fuel shipments.

But Duke Energy got a failing grade from Garcia.

“I have issues with Duke Energy and how they went about it, ” Garcia said during Wednesday’s council meeting. “Yes, they need a lot of fixing. Yes, they need to turn around and hire more people.”

Florida Power & Light responded within 48 hours and had 98 percent of customers’ power restored after Hurricane Irma, Garcia said.

“Duke Energy took almost nine to 10 days before they turned around and addressed the issue of power in the city of DeBary,” Garcia said.

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Bears busy bulking up for winter, FWC says

Florida wildlife officers Wednesday confirmed what some DeBary residents already know: Bears are busier than normal these days. Bears are busy bulking up for winter, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. That means your garbage could become a furry intruder’s next meal.

Bears need to pound 20,000 calories a day to prepare for the season.

“As bears become more active in the fall, they take the path of least resistance to find food,” said Dave Telesco, who leads the FWC’s Bear Management Program. “This draws them into neighborhoods and areas with convenient food sources, which can be dangerous for people. While the FWC continues to work with local communities to reduce human-bear conflicts, it is important for Floridians to understand the steps they can take to keep themselves safe.”

The FWC on Wednesday also revealed a new public-service video. The search for food often leads bears across busy roads. The latest installment of the Living with Florida Black Bears reminds drivers to use caution while driving through areas prone to have bears.

“Bears are most active around dusk and dawn, and therefore most vehicle-bear collisions happen during these times of day,” a news release said.

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Hurricane Irma orphaned baby squirrels in DeBary, elsewhere


Lisa Kestory gave the furry critter a kiss.

“When God wants to remind humans what falling love feels like, He sends a baby squirrel,” Kestory said on Facebook today.

The squirrel rehabber at Ahopha Wildlife Rescue said 22 baby squirrels, as well as other displaced animals, are being cared for at the DeLeon Springs-based nonprofit owned by Tom Scotti.

SquirrelGirl, as Kestory is called, recently set up an account on GoFundme.com to help Ahopha Wildlife Rescue rescue squirrels and other animals displaced or injured by Hurricane Irma.

Most of the rescued animals are birds, including waterfowl and sandhill cranes, as well as “lots” of baby squirrels, she wrote.

“Donations are desperately needed for rescue supplies, pet formula, nipples and syringes, medical supplies, medical care and most importantly, FUEL for the Ahopha Wildlife Rescue vehicle to be able to get to the wildlife at rescue locations all over Central Florida, so they can be taken to the local rehabbers and Veterinarians for emergency care,” the GoFundme account says.
Baby squirrels were found across west Volusia after the storm.

On Sept. 11 , the day after Irma, Ej Bielen‎ posted this on the DeBary Proud! Facebook page:
“Found a baby squirrel in the Streets on naranja and Valencia. He’s still alive and has a small injury to his tail. We bandaged him up. He had a sibling next to him that unfortunately didn’t survive due to cars driving through. Luckily we found him before the next car did. He is very young and not moving too much but looks to be breathing normal. Eyes are still closed. If anyone has any tips on how to care for him or wants to help us out please provide guidance. Thank you.”

Kestory’s call for help prompted positive responses online.

Brandy Dantas of DeLand said this to Kestory on Facebook: “Do y’all need any blankets or supplies like that no extra money right now but can see what I have around the house to donate. Would love to help out any way I can Tom does amazing work and I have brought a few baby squirrels to him in the past.”

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Breastfeeding in Volusia: 3 percent hike

Volusia moms are doing a better job of breastfeeding their babes.

The county’s breastfeeding rate jumped by 3 percent from 2011 to 2015, the Volusia County Health Department announced Tuesday. But Volusia is behind compared to the rest of the Sunshine State. Florida’s rate of increase during that period was 5.6 percent. Those details were released in a new report released by the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County, according to spokeswoman Holly Smith.

The report was prepared to coincide with National Breastfeeding Month, which is August.

“According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there is no better food than breast milk for a baby’s first year of life,” the report said.

“A significant body of evidence supports breastfeeding as critical to improve health outcomes of mothers and babies,” Florida State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip said in a statement. “Supporting mom and baby during the first few days of life are critical for successful breastfeeding.”

On a national level, the percentage of babies who start out breastfeeding increased from 73 percent in 2004 to 83 percent in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Breastfeeding rates vary among women of different races in Volusia County.

“For example, Hispanic mothers are the only racial/ethnic group that has exceeded a national breastfeeding goal set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” a news release said.
“Black mothers consistently had lower breastfeeding rates than white and Hispanic mothers.”

In Volusia County, the ZIP code with the highest breastfeeding
percentage among (WIC) mothers was 32130 in the DeLeon Springs and Barberville areas with 88.2 percent.

The DeBary-area ZIP code of 32713, came in at 82.4 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum was Oak Hil-area ZIP code 32759 with 47.1 percent.

Local officials with the federally funded Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food and health-care assistance program are working to improve breastfeeding rates.

Two-hour classes for new and expectant mothers are scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. on these dates and at these locations:

  • Tues., Sept. 5, at 775 Harley, Strickland Blvd., Orange City.
  • Wed., Sept. 13, at 717 W. Canal Street, New Smyrna Beach.
  • Thurs., Sept. 21, at 1845 Holsonback Dr., Daytona Beach.

“Each evening class is a one-time session,” the news release states. “Reservations are suggested but not required.”

Details:  volusiahealth.com/wic or call 866-WIC FOOD (942-3663).

Other resources:

  • La Leche League International: Call 1-800-LALECHE or www.lalecheleague.org.
  • Breastfeeding Helpline: Call 1-800-994-9662 or www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding.
  • Florida WIC Program Services: Call 1-800-342-3556 or visit the WIC website

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DeBary’s Gemini Springs lands $380K for runoff cleanup

A $50 million cleanup plan for Florida’s springs includes cash to protect Gemini Springs and other water bodies in Volusia County.

  • More than $380,000 from state, water district and local authorities will pay for efforts in DeBary to help clean runoff from 200 acres flowing into Gemini Springs.
  • About $1.2 million from state, district and locals will fund a project designed to reduce water withdrawals from Blue Spring in Orange City.
  • Nearly $390,000 for a separate project will help pay to remove 179 septic tanks that threaten the health of Blue Spring.
  • An additional $2 million is earmarked for Blue, Silver and
    Wekiva to voluntarily replace and retrofit septic tanks at an estimated cost of $10,000 per tank.
  • Another $2.5 million is approved to reduce pollution in DeLeon Springs. The money will pay for a conservation easement to transition Fieser Dairy from a highly intensive dairy operation to a less intensive ranching operation.
  • “It is estimated that this project will result in a nutrient reduction of more than 200 pounds of total nitrogen per day and more than 80 pounds of total phosphorus per day,” the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said in a news release.

The state and St. Johns River Water Management District are each chipping in $95,000, and local authorities will provide $190,000, for the Gemini Springs project.

It will pay for “nutrient separating baffle boxes” with “enhanced
nutrient reduction from stormwater and surficial groundwater along Dirksen Drive in Volusia County and upstream of the marsh inflow to Gemini Springs Run,” according to documents released by Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office. The property in the Fredricka Road area receives runoff from the 123-acre “Plantation Estates to the north, which was constructed prior to the stormwater treatment era,” documents state. “The Mansion Blvd. site receives runoff from an additional 85 acres of Plantation Estates. ”

Scott’s office and the Florida DEP on Monday announced $50 million for 40 projects.  The so called Fighting for Florida’s Future budget will “improve water quality, reduce nutrient loading, recharge water supply and protect habitat in Florida’s iconic spring systems,” the Florida DEP said. This includes a state investment of more than $10.2 million to protect springs in Central and Northeast Florida, including the Silver, Wekiva, Volusia Blue and De Leon

“This includes a state investment of more than $10.2 million to protect springs in Central and Northeast Florida, including the Silver, Wekiva, Volusia Blue and De Leon springsheds,” a statement said. “Combined with match funding from Florida’s water management districts and local partners, the investment in springs projects statewide will total more than $94 million during the 2017-18 fiscal year.”

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Five killed in Florida by lightning this year

Florida’s reputation for killer lightning continues.

Five people have been killed by lightning this year, most recently a tourist in Brevard County. They are among 11 killed in the U.S. this year.

Nine people were killed by lightning in Florida last year, including a tourist in Volusia County.

Fifty-two people have been killed by lightning between 2007 and 2016, according to a Naples Daily News.

Florida far outpaces any other state when it comes to lightning-related deaths. Texas had 21 deaths, less than half of Florida’s deaths in the same time period, according to a USA Today Network-Florida analysis.

In Florida’s most recent case, Lamar Rayfield, 35, of Philadelphia died at a hospital after he was hit by lightning on Satellite Beach in Brevard County on July 28.

An infant delivered after his pregnant mother was struck by lightning in the Fort Myers area died July 12, roughly two weeks after the strike.

Meghan Davidson was struck by lightning June 29. Her baby, Owen, was delivered at Lee Memorial Hospital and later moved to Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Thirty-five-year old Jeremy Harper of Kentucky died after a lightning strike outside his tent July 10 at the Wilderness Landing Campground in Okaloosa County in the Florida Panhandle.

He was camping with eight other family members, including six children ranging in age from 15 months to 13 years old, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.

Guadalupe Salinas, 46, of  Fort Pierce died after he was struck by lightning at a Jensen Beach construction site on May 17.

A construction worker, Edwin Ramos Jarquin Armas, 33, died in June after he was struck on the grounds of Pines City Center in Pembroke Pines, the Miami Herald said.

The last lightning fatality in Volusia County happened last year.

Janika Gardner of Georgia died after she was hit by lightning on the beach in Daytona Beach Shores on June 24, 2016, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

During storms:

  • Avoid open areas. Don’t be the tallest object in the area.
  • Stay away from isolated tall trees, towers or utility
  • Lightning tends to strike the taller objects in an
  • Stay away from metal conductors such as wires or
  • Metal does not attract lightning, but lightning can
    travel long distances through it.

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DeBary official: Fay-like storm will flood city

Even though DeBary is inland, a roughly 40-minute drive from the nearest beach, hurricanes remain a threat. Storm veterans remember the River City’s flooding in 2004 and 2008.

Now, even after the city installed  $30 million with of stormwater upgrades, the flooding threat remains, Public Works Director Alan Williamson told the City Council on Wednesday.

Tropical Storm Fay dumped close to 24 inches of rain in 24 hours on parts of West Volusia in 2008, overflowing lakes, putting streets underwater and flooding 130 homes in DeBary.

This hurricane season, which started June 1 but typically doesn’t kick into high gear until August and September, is expected to be a “little more than active,” Williamson said.

Weather officials are predicting 14 named storms, with 7 of those turning into hurricanes and three of those becoming major hurricanes,  Williamson said.

DeBary’s fledging stormwater system is doing a good job with routine storms. But a 2-foot deluge in one day would overwhelm the city’s system of pipes, pumps, ponds, hoses and lakes.

“If we have another Tropical Storm Fay,  we’re going to have flooding, even though we’ve spent a lot of money and we’ve put in a lot of infrastructure. Now, the flooding won’t be as bad. We can move the water much more quickly but we still have a lot of low areas in DeBary,” Williamson said.

He’s concerned about residents’ level of preparedness.

“The public won’t be ready. The public’s not ready. There’s a lot of complacency within the nation. ‘This disaster won’t happen to me. It can’t happen to me.’  Why not?” he asked rhetorically, “Whenever there’s a disaster in a small area, you always hear people say, ‘we didn’t think it would happen here.’ Why not? you need to assume the worst everywhere.”

He said the city has taken other steps besides making the stormwater upgrades. Officials have contracts in place with businesses to remove debris quickly after the storm.

A temporary disposal site has been identified. The Orange City Fire Department and the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office will provide whatever services is needed from their agencies, according to Williamson said.

The city has pumps to move water out of local ponds and generators to power traffic lights if they go out.

But residents need to prepare for their specific needs in case of storms.

“That’s what we expect them to do: Help themselves,” Williamson said.

When the winds get too fast, emergency responders will be grounded until conditions improve. Residents should prepare to fend for themselves for as long as 72 hours until the storms die down, he said.

The city’s major concern during storms is in the southeast quadrant because residents are on wells. If the power goes out, those residents won’t be able to get water pumped out of their wells.

“It doesn’t even take a storm to knock power out because if I had told you a week ago a snake will crawl into an electrical outlet or electrical component and black out 6,000 people you would have laughed at me,” Williamson said. Well, happened last week. So it doesn’t take a storm to cause problems.”

A snake caused a power outage after crawling into a Duke Energy facility on DeBary Avenue in Enterprise on Sunday, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Duke Energy said 6,131 customers, mostly DeBary-area ones, lost power at 9:42 p.m. and the outages lasted from 38 to 54 minutes.

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VCSO reveals new Crime Center

Deputies are rolling to a crime scene. They need information fast about where they are going. Is it a neighborhood with crime problems? If so, what kind of problems? Car break-ins? Burglaries? Drugs?

The answer to those questions and others are now easier to get because of the new Crime Center unveiled Tuesday by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office. The agency, which provides law-enforcement services in DeBary, said the center will use data gathered from the entire county.

Body worn cameras

“More than a year in the works, the Crime Center is a fully-integrated facility that will serve the entire county by providing analysis of crime trends and patterns as well as real-time intelligence disseminated to officers in the field responding to high-risk, in-progress incidents,” Gary Davidson, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said in a statement. “By tapping into existing and emerging technology, the Crime Center’s mission is to enhance the situational awareness of responding officers and improve safety for the public and officers.”