SARASOTA--When many think of Sarasota, they seem to envision a small, quaint, beachfront community with very little crime. While police officers do what they can to keep the community safe, like any city, there are plenty of bad people up to no good.
Over the last eight months we've witnessed burglaries, robberies, domestic disputes, DUIs and much more, during an extensive number of overnight ride alongs with Sarasota Police Officer Jon Vanik.
"You get the ability to change people's lives. You often don't get thanked for it and you don't always make enough, but it's rewarding enough to know that every single night, there is someone out there you will affect in a way they will remember you for years," said Vanik.
Vanik, who is 25-year-old, has been with the force for three and a half years. He works from 6:00 in the evening to 6:00 in the morning, and loves every second of it.
"There are more crimes that occur at night," said Vanik. "At night, you have burglaries, robberies, car accidents, and homicides."
As a roaming patrol officer, Vanik responds to just about everything.
"I go to all your tragedies, terrible days, and worst nightmares. I try to make it at least a little bit better for you," said Vanik.
Friday and Saturday nights are usually the busiest for Vanik and the other overnight officers. Around 3AM, many of them are patrolling an area they refer to as, "the block." It's on MLK between Osprey and North Washington. There, the officers deal with loud music, overcrowding in the streets, and at times shooting and stabbings.
Sarasota Police Chief Bernadtte DiPino knows her overnight officers have a difficult job to do each time they put on the badge.
"Every night you get in a police car, you don't know if it's going to be the night you face some dangerous, horrible situation, where you may not be coming home," said DiPino.
Police officers aren't always looked at in a great light, but it's important to point out that there are plenty of people like Jon Vanik, who serve and protect with a passion.
"I think it's important to appreciate what we do and understand there are other dangerous jobs, but ones where you don't go out and put your lives in danger in order to protect another human being in their right to be free, happy and safe," said Vanik.
To learn more about the Sarasota Police Department, the agency hosts two Citizens Police Academy sessions each year, with the next one happening in February. You can also arrange to go for a ride along by calling the Department.