Freddy Barton, who heads an agency that seeks to curb violence and otherwise improve neighborhoods, said his job would be much more difficult without police Officer Priscilla Clark.
Clark, whose duties include community outreach and crime prevention, has been instrumental in Hillsborough Safe and Sound’s efforts to encourage youngsters to stay in school and stay away from illegal drugs, Barton said
“She has a way of bringing people together,” he said. “When we need contacts in the community, we turn to her. She knows just who we should see.
There can be a mistrust of police, but she helps people see that law enforcement is a solution to the problem.”
Clark, a 4 ½-year veteran of the Plant City Police Department, is one of its most high-profile officers. Her beat as the community redevelopment area officer includes downtown, public housing projects and more. She works with downtown merchants, presents crime prevention seminars and helps oversee the daily feedings for the needy at the Plant City Winter Visitor Center.
She often parks her police cruiser and walks her beat so she can stay in touch with those she serves.
“I’m very proud and fortunate to be working in the community and for Plant City police,” she said. “I’m as happy serving the citizens now as I was when I first took this position. The bond and relationship I’ve created with the community has been unmeasurable.”
Clark’s work includes providing security at downtown’s special events, such as the monthly Strawberry Classic Car Show and the quarterly Bike Fest motorcycle shows.
“Anything that goes on downtown, I’m probably involved in,” she said.
She also has a soft heart for the needy. William Gill, who has lived in Plant City more than 50 years, said she helped find him shoes when his old ones wore out.
“The Plant City Police Department is the best there is, and Officer Clark is one of their best officers,” Gill said last month when he attended one of the daily feedings at the visitor center.
Clark said she puts merchants, churches and nonprofits that want to help the needy in touch with each other.
Clark, born into a farming family in California, decided to make law enforcement her life’s work after joining the Browley Police Department’s Explorer post as a high school student. The Explorers helped the department’s officers with such duties as directing traffic at special events.
Her first law enforcement job was as a dispatcher for the Winter Haven Police Department, followed, followed by her first job on the streets as a sworn officer for the Lake Wales Police Department. She worked as an investigator with the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco for 10 years before joining the Plant City Police Department in 2012.
She and her husband Dean have five children, two grandsons and a granddaughter.
Clark, who is in her 40s and has 15 years in law enforcement, started in her current role in 2014.
She enjoys her role, including her personal favorite duty, presenting crime prevention programs to youngsters. “I get to do a little bit of everything but working with kids is the best,” she said. “Every day just flies by.”
Darcy Stottlemeyer, owner of All a Bloom Florist at 116 N. Collins St., said Clark stops in downtown shops from time to time, just to check in and to offer crime preventions tips. “She’s really good at what she does and is always friendly,” she said. “I know we all feel safer knowing she’s on patrol.”
Last year, Clark’s efforts earned her a spot on the Florida State Fair Hispanic Wall of Fame, an honor that recognizes “individuals of diverse ethnic and racial origins who have made a significant contribution in Florida.”
Clark said the residents can help her and the police department in general by using the philosophy, “if you see something, say something.”
“Just be aware of your surrounding in different situations,” she said. “If you see something suspicious call the police or call the sheriff’s office. It’s better to be safe and take preventative measures. We’d rather you call and we find out it’s nothing than to wait and find out it was something. Always make the call.”