Community Relations Division.......................................................April 2003Edition

Sheriff Roth a "Difference Maker": Sheriff Richard Roth received a "Difference Maker" award March 26th in Tallahassee for his contributions to the Take Stock in Children program. The Monroe County Sheriff's Office has contributed $190,000.00 from forfeiture funds over a four year period to the program. "This program does wonderful things for the children of Monroe County and I'm proud to have helped in that effort," Sheriff Roth said. The plaque he received reads: "For giving generously to provide hope and opportunity to Monroe County's children." In the photo, left to right,  Paul Avery, President of Outback Steakhouse, Inc. and Chairman of the Board Take Stock In Children, Sheriff Roth, and Marcus Christian, President, Take Stock In Children.

Sheriff's Report: Traffic Accident Investigation in the Keys

The past month has been an extremely busy one for us.  We've had two hijacked Cuban airplanes land at the Key West International airport, which our Civil Division then seized for auction; we had a violent murder-suicide case in the upper Keys, where a man killed his wife and then himself; a terrible fatal accident on the Seven Mile bridge killed three people and closed the roadway for hours; yet another fatal accident on Rockland Key killed a local woman, and closed the road for hours, and the list goes on.

While the Cuban airplane hijackings and the murder-suicide are isolated incidents not likely to happen with any frequency in our county, the traffic accidents are another matter. They are all to common here, and the accompanying road closures can be a major disruption in the ability of our citizens to go about their daily business.

I want to talk, in this issue of Community News, about how traffic accidents are investigated in Monroe County and about why it is sometimes necessary to close our only roadway for hours due to such accidents.

First and foremost, you should know that the Florida Highway Patrol investigates all serious injury accidents in the Florida Keys, outside the city of Key West. We are usually first on the scene, followed by Fire/Rescue units, but our officers deal solely with the emergency at hand, including caring for those who are injured and making sure the scene is safe, as well as handling traffic control issues. When Florida Highway Patrol arrives, they take over as primary investigators and, as such, make all the decisions about closing the road, when and how wrecked vehicles are moved, and if we can divert traffic around the accident scene or not.

Our officers work closely with Florida Highway Patrol, and can make suggestions about how traffic might be kept moving, but it is FHPs final call.

That being said, I must tell you that many times it is simply impossible to move traffic around an accident in the Keys. On a bridge, there is no room, and in many other areas it is unsafe for various reasons. The Sheriff's Office and the Florida Highway Patrol have discussed the issue of getting traffic moving as soon as possible when a serious injury accident occurs, and we have both agreed it is a priority. We have both agreed we will move traffic around a scene whenever it is possible to do so, and will complete any necessary investigation as quickly as possible. However, the number one priority has to be the accident investigation itself, and making sure it is done thoroughly and completely.

We do our best to let local radio and television stations know what is happening, and when the road might be open to traffic. Local radio stations don' t always have someone in the studio to take our calls, and sometimes it is difficult to know for sure, and details are not always immediately available.

I know that, sitting in traffic for hours, it is difficult to be patient and understanding. It is frustrating not knowing how long you will be there or when you will be able to get where you need to go. Keep in mind, though, that there may be people involved who were injured or killed, and they or their surviving family members deserve the best investigation of the circumstances that the Florida Highway Patrol can give them.

Take care, and stay safe.

   Sheriff, Monroe County

Sector 7: Old Mariner's Hospital Renovation
By Captain Jennifer Bell-Thomson, Commander Sector 7

The Old Mariner's Hospital Building was purchased almost three years ago using money seized from a drug smuggler by the Federal Government with assistance from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. At the March Board of County Commissioner’s meeting, the hiring of DL Porter Construction was approved and the renovation process should now begin. The building will house the upper Keys Sector 7 Sheriff's Substation, as well as the Public Defender's Office and the Health Department. No taxpayer money was used in the purchase, and none will be used to renovate the Sheriff's Office portion of the building, including the entire roof, and the building's air-conditioning system. There have been questions and concerns raised by members of the public about this purchase that I’d like to address in this newsletter.

 Many people have questioned why the Sheriff chose to purchase and renovate a building in the Village rather than in Key Largo.  Several options were discussed over a long period of time prior to making this decision.  First and foremost was the availability of buildable property in Key Largo, the cost of that property, and how long we would have to wait to obtain permits to build a new substation.

 The Old Mariner’s, while indeed old, was still a viable building, it was available at a fair price, it is big enough to house several agencies, it is close to the jail, court system, Clerk, and other county offices, and it is centrally located for all the people we serve. While a sheriff’s office patrol staff is assigned to Islamorada, they do not provide what have been termed ‘county-wide’ services, and residents of the Village still must come to the Plantation Key substation for a host of services.  And lastly, renovation, as opposed to purchasing land and building a new building, was a quicker and less expensive option.

For any of you who have visited our building lately, I know you’ll agree that the sooner we’re in a new building, the better.  Our building was built as a residence and one-cell jail in the late 1950’s.  Over time it has been haphazardly added to.  For many years now, and more increasingly as time goes on, we have experienced the effects of the building’s age.  We’ve been forced to seal off one bathroom already, and every other weekend or so the plumbing backs up in one of the other restrooms.  Two weeks ago the fire department responded to investigate the smell of burning electrical wires.  We blow fuses frequently; the last time we had a severe lightning strike and subsequent downpour, several thousand dollars in computer equipment was ruined.  To continue to pour money into repairs of the roof, air conditioning and plumbing is a waste. 

 After considering every issue, the decision to purchase the Mariner’s building was made.  I must stress one very critical point regarding how the sheriff’s office provides service.  Deputies do not respond to calls for service from the public from the substation.  They are each assigned zones in Key Largo and come to the station only if they need to take care of administrative duties, when they have a prisoner, or when they go to court.  When a Key Largo deputy is here at the station, another one is assigned to take his or her place so that the zone is covered.  We also have office space in the Tradewinds shopping center, which is equipped with a phone, fax, and computer, so that deputies don’t always need to come to the substation on Plantation Key.  So in terms of the most important service we provide – the response of a deputy sheriff to a call, the location of our building has no impact whatsoever.

 I am particularly pleased that the new building will allow space for a public meeting room – something the sheriff agreed was needed, so that citizen’s groups in Islamorada and Tavernier will have a place close by to use for meetings.  I am looking forward to occupying our new building in the latter part of 2004 if all goes well. 

Islamorada: Community Meeting April 8th
By Lt. Tom Brazil, Station Commander, Sector 6

The city of Islamorada would like to invite citizens to attend a Community meeting and give their input about the Sheriff's Office operations in the Islamorada, Village of Islands.

The meeting will be held April 8th at 7 p.m. at the Islamorada Library. Everyone is welcome to attend. Refreshments will be served at the meeting.

The City of Marathon and Sector 5: Awards, Community Policing
By Captain Robert P. Peryam, Commander, Marathon District

Deputies Greg Korzen, Joel Slough and Sonya Morgan as well as Sergeants Jake Brady and Sam Cassel were awarded medals by Sheriff Rick Roth. Sgt. Cassel could not be present at the ceremony.

On April 21st, five Marathon Deputies received awards for their duty above and beyond the call. Sergeant Sam Cassel, Deputies Greg Korzen, Joel Slough and Sonya Morgan received the Distinguished Service Medal for their actions evacuating over one hundred residents at the Holiday Inn in Marathon during a fire. These officers acted as a team and with a well formulated plan. Their actions were commensurate with the values and objectives of the Sheriff’s Office.

Sergeant Jake Brady and Deputies Joel Slough and Sonya Morgan found themselves at an apartment fire about a week later and they entered the building at the risk of their own lives to extricate an unconscious woman who lie helplessly on the floor. They were awarded the Sheriff’s Medal at the same Officer of the Year ceremony.

Community Oriented Policing: At the left, Deputies Louis Rivera, Chuck Kellenberger and Iscandel Perez ready to ride.

Community Oriented Policing (COP) is an organizational philosophy with a decentralized approach aimed at reducing crime and improving the quality of life within a community. The entire community is responsible for public safety-not just the police. Community policing recognizes a shared responsibility and connection between the police and the community.

In Marathon, just last month we completed three two-day training classes that were open to all residents. Students were taught the intricacies of community oriented policing. The methods now being employed in this community are time honored and proven to address the causes of crime, identify possible counter measures and enact solutions for the benefit of all. The SARA process is one of the most successful tools that has been developed. This process includes the following measures:

  • Scanning: Problems are identified

  • Analysis: Questions are asked to learn everything possible about the problem

  • Response: Based on careful analysis, a custom made response to the problem is tried

  • Assessment: The response is evaluated to see if the problem was solved

  • Many of our Deputies work a flexible schedule in order to meet the needs of the community based upon meetings (neighborhood association, crime watch, etc.), events and problem-solving initiatives. These flexible schedules also facilitate more effective problem solving. You may see your Deputies working in uniform and driving a marked police patrol car, patrolling on a police mountain bike, or if the situation calls for it, operating a wave runner or four-wheel drive ATV on the beach or working in plain clothes. The flexibility of their work schedule, coupled with creative and innovative problem-solving efforts, allows them to resolve problems beyond traditional responses.

    Sergeant Dennis Cain supervises most of our aggressive, pro-active community measures. If you have any suggestions, comments or complaints please feel free to contact Sergeant Cain at the Marathon Sub-Station at 289-2430. He and all of your Deputies are here to serve you and our community. We are here for you -- 24 / 7 / 365.

    County News:

    Mayor Spehar kicks-off "One Voice for Children" Caravan: The County hosted the kick-off of Wesley House Family Services “One Voice for Children” Caravan on Thursday, March 13th at 8:30 a.m. in the Historic Gato Building courtyard in Key West. Monroe County Mayor Dixie Spehar attended the 30 minute program and read the "One Voice for Children" Proclamation in support of families with children in Monroe County. The Caravan then proceeded to Marathon and the Upper Keys where similar ceremonies took place. In the photo: Mayor Spehar reads "One Voice for Children" Proclamation, while Wesley House Executive Director Joe Barker looks on.
    County Sells Bonds to Fund Capital Improvements: Monroe County Mayor Dixie Spehar signs documents to complete the sale of Infrastructure Sales Surtax Revenue Bonds to fund Capital Improvement Projects. The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) authorized the sale of over $21 million in Infrastructure Sales Surtax Revenue Bonds, Series 2003. The proceeds of this sale provide funding for a portion of the County's Capital Improvement Program including construction, equipment purchases and land acquisitions.

     The 11 projects include design and construction of Stock Island Fire Rescue Facility Storage, Big Pine Fire/EMS, Conch Key Fire/EMS, Cudjoe Fire/EMS, Key Largo North Fire Station, Tavernier Fire Rescue, Ocean Reef Fire/Ambulance Replacement, the Upper Keys Gov't Center, Plantation Key Courtrooms, Marathon Courtrooms Renovations, and the Medical Examiner's facility.  The bonds are secured by and payable from the One Cent Infrastructure Sales Surtax revenues. Florida imposes a 6% sales tax on sales and use of tangible personal property. The one-cent local government infrastructure sales surtax was placed on the ballot and approved by Monroe County voters in 1989, allowing for the tax to be levied until Sept.30, 2004. On March 14, 2000, county voters extended the levy authorization through Dec. 31, 2018. The tax is collected by the state and distributed monthly to the county.

     The BOCC approved the proposal from Hough & Co. to purchase the bonds at a rate of 3.57%. Mayor Spehar and County officials signed the documents on March 24, 2003, to complete the transaction. The County's financial advisors deemed this sale to be fair and equitable to the County. It is advantageous for the County to borrow money now at lower rates, then later when rates would be higher and funding Capital Projects more costly. You can learn more about the Monroe County by visiting the website at

    Retiring Monroe County Fire Marshal Honored by BOCC:
    Joe London started his 40-year career as a firefighter in North Miami Beach, eventually rising to the rank of Fire Marshal for Monroe County, a position he has served with courtesy, commitment and dedication for over 17 years. He also gained his Florida State fire Inspection, Florida State Firefighter, Building Official, Building Inspector and International Arson Investigator accreditation. Fire Marshal London has implemented training, standardized fire equipment for ten volunteer fire departments and helped to purchase over 35 fire trucks, as well as development of 2 new fire stations. He was instrumental in the building and design of Monroe County's state of the art training facility for firefighters on Grassy Key.

    One of Joe London's greatest accomplishments is the prevention of untold fires. Through his efforts to bring together building developers, business owners, homeowners, and industry representatives potential fire hazards have been prevented throughout Monroe County. His 40-year career has been committed to preventing fires and helping firefighters do their job. For all these reasons and many more, the BOCC and the Monroe County Fire Chief's Association have renamed the Grassy Key training facility, the Joe London Training Facility in his honor. The U.S. Fire Administrator David Paulison regards Joe London as "a true American firefighter."

    Monroe county receives national budget award: The Government Finance Officer's Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) announced that Monroe County Board of County Commissioners has received the GFOA's Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for its Fiscal Year 2002 budget.

    This Award represents a significant achievement, reflecting the commitment of the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners and staff to meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting. In order to receive the budget award, the County has to satisfy nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation. These guidelines are designed to assess how well the County's budget serves as a policy document, financial plan, operations guide, and a communications device. The County's budget was rated "proficient" in all four of these categories.

     A Certificate of Recognition for Budget Presentation was presented to the Monroe County Office of Management and Budget, as the department primarily responsible for having achieved the award. This acknowledges the County's pioneering efforts to improve the quality of budgeting and provides an excellent example for other governments throughout North America.

     The Government Finance Officers Association serves 14,000 government finance professionals throughout North America. This is the 5th consecutive year Monroe County has received the GFOA's Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, the only national awards program in governmental budgeting.

    Mayor Spehar with NCGW Proclamation

    National County Government Week April 6-12: Monroe County begins a celebration of National County Government Week (NCGW) on April 8, 2003 with a group of 4th graders touring the Gato building and certain county departments including Public Works (Engineering), and meeting County officials. The County will host a number of activities for children throughout the week in an effort to highlight the special programs and activities the county supports to help children and youths.

    The tour of the services provided at the Gato Building is just one of many activities Monroe County has planned for the week, which is April 7 – 12. Other activities include Fire-Rescue presentations for kids; the debut of a new "County Kids" website, and an intergenerational lunch at the Nutrition Center.

    NCGW is sponsored by the National Association of Counties (NACo) to raise public awareness about the roles and responsibilities of counties. Monroe County is one of more than 1,000 counties nationwide that participate in the week. The theme of this year’s celebration is "Counties Care for Kids." NACo will honor top volunteer programs in the country and the top childcare programs in Capital Hill ceremonies in Washington, D.C. during the week.

    General News:

    Law Enforcement Fundraiser: The Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #28, is currently having it's annual fundraising drive in the Florida Keys. The Lodge is made up of local Florida Keys law enforcement officers and the money raised in this drive will stay in Monroe County. The fundraiser is telephone-based, and is being done by a telephone solicitation company hired by the F.O.P. They are taking donations to the F.O.P. and, in return, donors will receive tickets to a concert to be held in Islamorada. For more information, contact Sgt. Daryl Hull  via email or at 305-745-3184.

    Sheriff Roth inside the cockpit of the Cuban AN-24 hijacked to the U.S. April 1st.

    Cuban Hijackings: Two Cuba aircraft hijacked to the U.S. recently from Cuba have been seized and will be auctioned. The Cuban DC-3 hijacked March 19th will be auctioned April 28th at 11 a.m. at the Key West International Airport. The Cuban AN-24 will most likely be auctioned in May. The exact date has not been set, but will be announced soon. For more information, visit our Events/Announcements page.

    Photos of the April 1st, 2003 hijacking, along with photos of both of the seized Cuban planes are available for viewing on the Sheriff's Office Photo Gallery web pages. Visit the Photo Gallery Index at

    National Crime Victim's Rights Week is April 6 - 12. If you visit the Events/Announcements page on our web site, you'll find a link to an extensive informational resource guide from the Department of Justice about Crime Victim's Rights. For information about the Sheriff's Office Victim Advocate's program visit our Advocate's web page by clicking on this link.

    Traffic delays expected: On April 26th between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., approximately 1,500 bicycle riders will be traveling down Card Sound Road from Metro Zoo in Miami. Once in the Keys, they will ride on the south side of U.S. One to Pennekamp Park, where they will cross over to the park for a celebratory event. The following day, they will return northbound, on the northbound side of the highway, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 a.m., again traveling out of the Keys on Card Sound Road. Deputies have been hired off duty to manage any traffic difficulties, but there will be traffic delays during the event.

    The 2003 Law Enforcement / Special Olympics Torch Run will begin in Key West, Friday April 11th, 2003. Participating runners from all Law Enforcement Agencies will begin at the Southernmost Point at 8 a.m. and wind thru the streets stopping at HOB School, Key West High School , Poinciana School and finishing up at the Monroe County Sheriff's Office Headquarters building on Stock Island. The run will continue in Marathon and will begin at 1 p.m. The final destination for the state-wide run will be in Tampa Florida on the 25th of April where Law Enforcement Agencies from around the state will roll into the stadium to begin the 2003 Special Olympics Games. The public is welcome to turn out to cheer on the runners as they traverse the above routes.

    Children's Festival of the Arts: Art Behind Bars, the Florida Keys Council of the Arts and the Key West Art & Historical Society, will host the “Children’s Festival of the Arts” on Saturday, April 12th, from 12 noon –5 p.m. at E. Martello Tower in Key West. A butterfly release will open the event, and more than 35 groups will exhibit, perform, show off their summer program opportunities, or offer interactive fun. Admission to the event is free. If you would like more information, e-mail or visit their web site online at

    Crime Prevention Tip of the Month:

    Keep Your Personal Information Private
    - Under state law, your motor vehicle and driver license records are subject to public disclosure. The Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) allows you to keep your personal information private by limiting who has access to the information. Your photograph, your telephone number, and your medical information are already protected from public disclosure. DPPA allows you to protect the rest of your personal information.


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    This web site was last updated Thursday February 26, 2004

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