October 25, 2007

Traffic Enforcement to concentrate on DUIs Saturday

Lower Keys – Sheriff’s Office Traffic Enforcement deputies will be primarily assigned to the lower Keys Saturday evening, patrolling Fantasy Fest traffic for impaired drivers.

Traffic Enforcement deputies will be out in force between Key West and Big Pine Key watching for impaired drivers as Fantasy Fest crowds travel south to Key West for the big parade Saturday evening. Later, as the crowds head back northbound, deputies will also be there watching out for dangerous drivers. 

With the assistance of Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Highway Patrol, one area of concentrated effort will be on Big Pine Key where they will watch closely for DUI drivers, speeders and for any other traffic infractions.

Sheriff’s deputies will also be working on Duval Street during Fantasy Fest activities. To assist with the large numbers of arrests which are a routine by-product of the festivities, Sheriff’s Corrections Officers will have a special outpost set up just off of Duval Street to handle some booking procedures prior to the arrestees being transported to the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island.

“This is fair warning,” said Colonel Rick Ramsay. “We are going to be out there. We want everyone to have a good time, but we want them to do it safely. If you drink, don’t drive. If you do, we’ll be there to take you to jail. Call a cab instead, or designate a sober driver to drive you home. Make this a safe and care free Fantasy Fest.”

October 23, 2007

Sheriff's Animal Farm open this Sunday

The Sheriff's Office Animal Farm will be open to the public Sunday, October 28th , 2007, between the hours of 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Everyone is welcome to visit, free of charge, and see the wide variety of animals at the park, including tropical birds, snakes, ferrets, rabbits, horses, ponies, a llama, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, an 100 pound tortoise and more. 

The Children's Animal Farm is located at the Stock Island Detention Center, just off of College Road. It is open to the public on the second and fourth Sunday of every month. Groups may make special arrangements to visit the farm as well. Call the Sheriff's Office Detention Center at 305-293-7300 to schedule a visit.

Because of the Thanksgiving holidays, the farm will only be open one Sunday in November - November 11th; in December, the farm will only be open one Sunday for its Annual Christmas at the Animal Farm, which has been scheduled for December 16th.

October 16, 2007

Laser Speed measurement class in Marathon

The Sheriff’s will be conducting a Laser Speed Measurement class on Thursday, October 18th  and middle Keys travelers will see groups of officers gathered at the north end of the Seven Mile Bridge for the hands on portion of the class.

Thursday afternoon, drivers in the area of the Seven Mile Bridge will see students using a Laser speed measurement device to measure their speed. Keep an eye out for them while driving. The students themselves won’t be writing any citations, but there will be traffic enforcement deputies already trained in the laser devices who will be able to write citations to those who violate the speed limit. Remember, the speed limit at that end of Marathon is 35 miles per hour until a car is actually on the span of the bridge so watch your speedometers!

October 10, 2007

Monroe County crime shows an increase the first half of the year

Major index crimes increased overall in Monroe County for the first half of the year, according to reports by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Monroe County index crimes, excluding the city of Key West, went up 7.8% for the first half of 2007 as compared to the same time period in 2006.

Major index crimes include Murder, Forcible Rape, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, Burglary, Larceny and Motor Vehicle Theft. The Sheriff’s Office is required to report these and other crimes to FDLE, which tracks them for the entire state. Sex Offenses, Robbery, Burglary were all down during the period of time in question. Aggravated Assault increased significantly, however, along with larceny (theft). Motor vehicle thefts were up slightly. The following index crimes were reported:

Type of Crime          January 1 – June 30, 2007           January 1 – June 30, 2006
Murder                           0                                                            0
Forcible Sex Offenses     8                                                           19
Robbery                        11                                                          14
Aggravated Assault       142                                                          90
Burglary                       203                                                         231
Larceny                       760                                                         691
Motor Vehicle Theft       59                                                            52
Total crimes               1,183                                                       1,097

An increasing crime rate is a relatively new phenomenon on the county, which has for the past 15 years, seen a steady decrease in the crime rate.

“We are certainly concerned with the increase in our crime rate,” said Sheriff Rick Roth. “and we will be looking more closely at some areas, particularly at aggravated assaults and larcenies, where it appears we have had our greatest increases. I am also concerned because, with our recent budget cuts and the corresponding elimination of 13 law enforcement patrol and investigations positions, we now have even fewer law enforcement officers out on the street than we did during the time period in question. Any more reductions in manpower in the future could really impact our ability to be proactive in our efforts to prevent crime in our community.”

October 9, 2007

Sobriety Checkpoint planned October 20th in Islamorada

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office will be operating a sobriety checkpoint Saturday, October 20th in the vicinity of the 90 mile marker of U.S. One in Islamorada. The checkpoint will start at 10 p.m. and will run to approximately 3 a.m. the following morning. Officers on the scene will be pulling cars over to the side of the road and checking drivers for impairment. They will also check for outstanding warrants, and check vehicles for properly operating safety equipment.

October 3, 2007

Sheriff to exhume unidentified bodies for DNA

The Sheriff’s Office will be exhuming six unidentified bodies in order to collect samples for a the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National DNA database. The  hope is the samples will match DNA in the database and will help identify the unknown victims.

“Somewhere there are families who are missing a loved one and we hope, by entering these DNA samples into the database we will be able to let them know what happened to their missing family  member”, said Sheriff Rick Roth.

In recent years, law enforcement has been collecting DNA samples from the families of missing persons and entering those samples into the national database. As the database grows, so does the chances of a sample match when the DNA of a missing person is entered. Many agencies – the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office included – are going back and taking a look at old unidentified remains in the hopes that new technology can help bring closure to a case, and to a family.

Sgt. Patricia Dally, who heads up the Crimes Against Persons Unit, spends a good portion of her time revisiting old homicide cases, and cases where bodies have been found and have not been identified. She has a list of 28 cases where bodies or body parts have been located with no identification possible. Because the cases go back to the late 1960s, records are scarce about where the bodies were interred. In six of those cases, though, she has managed to trace where the bodies are located.

With the help Russell Brittain, the Key West Cemetery Sexton, Martina Thurmond from the Big Coppitt Key Cemetery and Medical Examiner Michael Hunter, she plans to exhume them and take samples which she hopes may help her find out who they are. She says she will continue working to find the location of other unidentified remains and hopes to repeat the process in the future.

The first six include a 1983 case, a white male found January of 1983 whose skeletonized remains were found in a wooded area off of State Road 905 in Key Largo; a case from August of 1987 where a head and torso of a black male aged 20 – 30 were found in Key Colony Beach; a case from May of 1988  with black male in his 30s was found wrapped in sheets off of a gravel road in off of State Road 905 Key Largo; a case from march of 1991 where an infant was found buried in a shallow grave on Big Coppitt Key (this is the only body NOT at the Key West cemetery; the infant was buried at Big Coppitt); a case from April of 1993 where a white male’s decomposed body was found in a wooded area near Holiday Isle; and a case in September of 1999 where a woman, possibly in her 50s, was found dead on a boat just offshore of Key West.

Detective Sgt. Dally would like to encourage anyone who has a family member who has been reported missing to law enforcement to contact the local office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to submit a sample to the National DNA Database.

“This database is a terrific tool, but it can only work if the information is entered into it. The more DNA we can collect from families and from unidentified victims to use for comparison, the more of these cases we can hopefully solve,” she said.