Community Relations Division......................................................... May 2003Edition

Sheriff's Report

Health insurance and budget issues are the current concerns for our agency. I want to let you all know, up front, where these issues stand.

Health insurance is the issue of the day for most of our employees, now that the county has opted to reduce benefits and increase both the percentage employees pay overall, as well as the yearly deductible and dependent care costs. I won't tell you I'm happy about the decision - this reduction in employee benefits will definitely cause many problems for our agency when it comes to retention of current employees, and the hiring and retention of new employees.

The Sheriff's Office already has a very high employee turnover rate - 18.23% for last year. In 2002, we lost 93 people: 28 deputies, 32 Corrections Officers, and 33 Support staff . Much of this turnover is due to the high cost of living in the Keys - the highest cost of living in the state of Florida. Additionally, we are losing the fight when it comes to salaries: our starting salaries are lower overall than other law enforcement agencies in the county as well as compared to Dade County, Broward County and Palm Beach Counties, our main competitors for employees. Now, we are seeing our benefits decrease.

I'm not sure there is an easy solution to any of this. The cost of health insurance across the country continues to rise. Our county is not alone in that. In some places government agencies have chosen to continue subsidizing insurance for their employees, raising taxes to cover the increased costs. They know that a good benefit package is essential to the retention of good employees. Monroe County has chosen a different goal: holding the line on taxes.

If the goal of county commissioners is to hold the line on taxes, then we may have very little choice with these matters. Right now, our health insurance is tied to the County insurance pool. We are looking at all possible options when it comes to alternative insurance, but for now, it appears our employees will see increased insurance costs and decreased benefits.

When it comes to raises, and our efforts to maintain competitive salaries, we are also between a rock and a hard place. The county has asked us to hold the line, and keep any overall budget increase to 2.4%. Our basic expenses for running the jail can be counted on to increase on a yearly basis. We're going to ask for a 2.4% salary increase along with the increases for contractual services.

If we were to hold our budget increase to 2.4% as requested, the only option left would be cutting services we provide to the citizens of the county. We've really reached a point where it is difficult to identify any "non-essential" positions to cut. We may, by necessity, be forced to begin cutting some of our law enforcement related programs. Reducing some programs will, without a doubt, affect our ability to prevent crime, and keep people safe on our roadways, in our schools and in our neighborhoods.

Take care, and stay safe.

   Sheriff, Monroe County

What's Happening

Sheriff’s Office participates in Coastal Clean up

Members of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office participated in the April 25th Coastal Cleanup sponsored by The Marine Conservancy. Two groups participated, one from the lower Keys and one from the upper Keys.

In the lower Keys, Sheriff’s dive team members cleaned in the area around Boca Chica Bridge, at the 7 mile marker of the highway. They picked up an estimated 50 golf balls, at least 50 bottles and cans, various fishing lures and approximately two hundred feet of monofilament fishing line, as well as other debris.
The upper Keys group, comprised of members of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office Islamorada District, the Sheriff’s Office Dive Team as well as members of the Federal Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the State Attorney's Office, cleaned the area of Crocker Reef and the Sand Bar off Holiday Isle recovering a large quantity of trash and debris including bottles, cans and fishing line. Tavernier Dive Center donated equipment to assist with the upper Keys cleanup.

Cadets Raffle Off Boat

Click here to see a flyer with more information

The Sheriff's Office Explorer/Cadet Program is raising money by raffling off a 22 foot center console Sea Cat boat. The boat is valued at $42,000.00, and is powered by 2 Suzuki 115 hp 4 Stroke Engines.  They are only selling 6000 raffle tickets for just $10.00 per ticket. People can purchase a ticket from any Sheriff's Office Cadet, or they can call (305)292-7116 or toll free 1-800-273-COPS (2677) and a ticket will be delivered in person, or mailed to you depending on the your location. The drawing will be held June 2nd. The raffle is sponsored by Portside Marine of Key Largo.

Cuban Planes to be Auctioned

The Cuban planes seized by the Sheriff's Office in March and April of this year will be sold June 2nd at two separate auctions held on the same day. The auctions will take place Monday, June 2nd beginning at 11 a.m. at the Key West International Airport in Key West. The DC-3 and the AN-24 were seized by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Civil Division after receipt of orders from Miami-Dade Circuit Court directing that they be seized to partially satisfy a judgment in the case ANA MARGARITA MARTINEZ, Plaintiff, vs. THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA, Defendant (CASE NO. 99-18208 CA 20).

The planes are described as follows:

  • A twin engine Douglas DC3 Aircraft with tail number CU-T-1192 and serial number of 10028

  • A Cubana Airlines Antonov 24 turboprop Aircraft with tail Number CU-T-1294 and serial number of 27308105.

Both planes will be sold to the highest bidder. There is no minimum bid set for either auction. There will be a public inspection held the day before the auction, Sunday, June 1st, between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. People interested in either the inspection, the auction or both should pre-register with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office of Civil Process, Director Kirk Bondurant, by calling 295-3677, sending email to or faxing a letter to 295-3670. To see photos of the DC-3, along with photos of the AN-24 recently seized after it was hijacked to the U.S., visit the Sheriff’s Office web site at

Sector 7: Traffic Enforcement a priority in upper Keys neighborhoods
By Captain Jennifer Bell-Thomson, Commander Sector 7

Whenever we attend public meetings with residents we find that the biggest complaint is traffic problems in their neighborhoods.  In an effort to address this problem, for the past month and a half deputies have been working a special overtime detail, paid for by seized funds.  Their mission has been to strictly enforce traffic laws in neighborhoods, and to also provide high visibility patrol in areas where neighbors have complained about noise, a high volume of traffic, and disorderly conduct.

The neighborhoods we initially chose to focus on were those where we had received numerous complaints about speeding. This situation occurs mostly in neighborhoods where the main street into the area is a long one – Burton Drive, Ocean Bay Drive, and Atlantic Boulevard, for example.  There were 12 such streets identified.  Additionally, there were seven other areas within neighborhoods where disturbances frequently occur. 

The detail was scheduled to be random during the week, but every Friday and Saturday, and at different blocks of time during the day and night. Initially, deputies stayed quite busy, but as time went on and word got out about our efforts, the activity decreased dramatically.  As that activity decreased, some neighborhoods were dropped from the detail and others added.  Overall, deputies issued 54 written citations, 92 written warnings and made three arrests during this detail.  Additionally, there were numerous contacts with juveniles who were gathering at locations where they did not have permission to be.

Although the detail has now ended, deputies on their regular shifts are encouraged to continue to monitor traffic in neighborhoods. Our traffic enforcement division also spends time enforcing traffic laws in neighborhoods throughout the county. I believe this is an problem that requires constant vigilance by the sheriff’s office. 

One of the other ways we attempt to control traffic is by using our electronic radar sign.  This is the sign that flashes red if an oncoming vehicle is exceeding the speed limit.  This is a very effective tool and we keep it operating constantly. Unfortunately, the sign was recently the victim of vandalism and is down for repairs.  We do intend to put it back in a neighborhood as soon as those repairs are complete. 

Another method of slowing traffic in neighborhoods is to create 4 way stops along these long streets.  Members of the Ocean Bay Crime Watch group are supporting this idea for Ocean Bay Drive where it intersects with East Drive and also Ocean Shores Drive.  There are several other neighborhoods where we believe this will be an effective means of slowing traffic but before we move forward we need to determine if a majority of the residents are in favor of it.  We plan to hold neighborhood meetings in the future to discuss this idea with homeowners. If you have any questions or input, please contact me at 853-3211.

In last month’s newsletter, I wrote that the money used for the purchase of the old Mariner’s Hospital, and the renovation of the sheriff’s portion of the building came from seized funds, not taxpayer dollars.  It was brought to my attention by the sheriff’s administrative bureau chief that $340,000.00 of those funds actually came from county impact fees.  I stand corrected and apologize for that misinformation.


What to do when you call 911
Tips from your friendly neighborhood Sheriff's Office Dispatchers

By Communications Officer Debra Shepherd

What if I call 911 by mistake?

If you call 911 by mistake, please don't hang up.  Stay on the phone and tell the dispatcher that you made a mistake.  The sheriff's office calls back all 911 hang ups and verifies that the person on the other end of the line is okay.  If the line is busy or nobody answers and an address is available, a deputy is sent to the location to check on the people inside or in the immediate vicinity.

This can be time consuming, and happens most often when a homeowner accidentally calls 911 instead of 411 and then is afraid to pick up the phone when the sheriff's office calls them back. Don't be afraid to admit it was a will save us both time and trouble.

What to do when you call 911 for a real emergency:

When you call 911, please try to answer all of the dispatcher's questions before hanging up the phone.  Every question asked has a purpose.  The questions might sound mundane and may not make any sense to you, but might be vital to the deputy or fire/rescue person who is responding to your call.

Do not hang up the phone until the dispatcher tells you it's okay to do so.  Sometimes we keep callers on the phone until the first officer arrives  when they are reporting a crime or situation progress, or when lives and property might be in danger.

In today's world, virtually everyone has a cell phone.  Many of these people have 911 on their cell phone speed dial systems so they can call at the touch of one number. Dozens of times during a shift, we will receive 911 calls from such cell phones - presumably accidental calls.  In the background we can hear the people having dinner, driving in their vehicles or fishing. They have simply pushed that number on their cells phones by accident, and don't even realize it. When we receive these calls, we try to call the number back to let the person on the other end know that their cell phone is active.  They are usually very surprised and apologize for the inconvenience.   It's just another aspect as to how cell phones have impacted all of our lives. 

County News Website Debuts

The Monroe County Library System has a new website

Library Advisory Board Members help Mayor Spehar &
Commissioner McCoy launch website. 

Library information has always been available on the County website, but with the debut of, the Library has it's own fully developed website, featuring information about the library branches' hours, location and services, Friends of Library groups, and special pages for kids. 

Through the website, patrons are now able to access the catalog for the entire Library system from their home computers, and can renew and request books, videos, and other materials at their convenience.

 The catalog also features book reviews and synopses. Library patrons have 24/7 access to other Library databases such as NetLibrary, which features electronic books, travel guides, and reference materials. The Gale database features full-text newspapers, journals, and magazines. Library is offering a new feature on a trial basis, the "Chapter-a-Day virtual book club" which sends book excerpts by e-mail to its readers, from an assortment of mysteries, Young Adult features, non-fiction and business materials. 

This project first got its start 6 years ago with a group of Library Services & Technology Act (LSTA) grants to the Library system for computer hardware and software. Since that time the Library System has become automated and computerized, and provides Internet access for over 100,000 library users a year.

 "The time and effort of many people contributed to this website becoming a reality, from the Reference Librarian, to the Big Pine Key Branch Manager, the County Manager of Communications and Website, and the Director of Technical Services and crew. " stated Norma Kula Director of Libraries.

 The Monroe County Public Library developed the website for the over 430, 000 Library patrons that visit them per year to use and enjoy, featuring current, up-to-date, and useful information. The web address for the Monroe County Public Library is

Cudjoe Fire Station gets New Engine

Monroe County Fire Rescue announced last week the arrival of their new pumper engine. The International 4400 Contender Plus is a 330 horse power pumper engine which includes a hydraulic ladder and 1000 gallon water tank. In order to save time and money Monroe County purchased the unit using a "Piggyback" contract from Lake County Florida and received the same best price thru the Ten - 8 Fire Equipment Company, the local distributor.  The new engine will serve the primary response area of Cudjoe, Sugarloaf and Summerland Keys. It replaces a 1978 American LaFrance pumper that will go into reserve service. You can take a closer look at the new engine at the Cudjoe Fire Station, MM #20, 20950 Overseas Hwy., Cudjoe Key.

General News

Employees Wanted

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office is accepting applications for the following positions:

  • Florida Certified Detention Deputies

  • Detention Deputies Trainees (Academy starts July 14, 2003)

  • Communication Officers (Marathon)

  • Detention Records Assistants (Key West Jail Facility)

  • School Crossing Guard (Islamorada)

  • Aviation Mechanic

  • Accounting Supervisor (Key West)

Please contact the Human Resources Division at (305) 292-7044, for detailed job information or visit our Jobs/Employment page on our web site.

The Monroe County is an Equal Opportunity Employer

Police Memorial Day Ceremony in the Keys is May 23rd
The week of May 11 - 17 is National Police Week

In October of 1962 President John F. Kennedy signed Public Law 87-726 making May 15th Peace Officers Memorial Day, and the week containing that date as National Police Week. During this week, law enforcement agencies and citizens around the country take time to remember those officers killed while protecting and serving the citizens of their respective jurisdictions.

In the Florida Keys, we will hold a ceremony on May 23rd in the city of Key West, at Bayview Park, at 7 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend to help honor the six local officers who have given their lives in the line of duty over the years, as well as all officers killed during the past year. In 2002, 157 Officers were killed in the line of duty in the United States.

To see a list of Florida Keys officers killed in the line of duty, and read about the circumstances of their death, visit the web page dedicated to their memory by clicking here. To hear more about officers killed in the United States, visit the Officer Down Memorial Page at

Public Law 87-726 reads as follows:

Whereas the police officers of America have worked devotedly and selflessly in behalf of the people of this Nation, regardless of the peril or hazard to themselves; and
Whereas these officers have safeguarded the lives and property of their fellow Americans; and
Whereas by the enforcement of our laws, these same officers have given our country internal freedom from fear of the violence and civil disorder that is presently affecting other nations;
Whereas these men and women by their patriotic service and their dedicated efforts have earned the gratitude of the Republic:
Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is authorized and requested to issue proclamations (1) designating May 15 of each year as Peace Officers Memorial Day in honor of the Federal, State, and municipal officers who have been killed or disabled in the line of duty, (2) directing the officials of the Government to display at halfstaff the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on such day, as provided by section 3(m) of the Act of June 22, 1942 (Chapter 435; 56 Stat. 377; 36 U.S.C. 175), (3) designating in each year the calendar week during which such May 15 occurs as Police Week, in recognition of the service given by the men and women who, night and day, stand guard in our midst to protect us through enforcement of our laws, and (4) inviting the governments of the States and communities and the people of the United States to observe such day and week with appropriate ceremonies and activities, including the display at halfstaff of the flag of the United States.

Approved October 1, 1962.

Amended by Public Law 103-322 in 1994: Public Law 87-726, signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, was amended as above by the 103rd Congress as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. President Bill Clinton signed Public Law 103-322 which directs that the flag of the United States on all Government buildings be displayed at half-staff on May 15, National Peace Officers' Memorial Day

May 18th to the 23rd is Hurricane Awareness Week

Governor Jeb Bush has declared May 18th to the 23rd "Hurricane Awareness Week" in the State of Florida. For a wealth of information about Hurricanes, how to prepare for them and for many useful links to other emergency preparedness web sites, visit our Hurricane Preparation web pages or the Florida Division of Emergency Management at

May is National Bicycle Safety Month

During the month of May Deputies in the Upper Keys are going to promote bicycle safety and the use of bike helmets for National Bicycle Safety month. According to Safe Kids Campaign

  • Bicycles are associated with more childhood injuries than any other consumer product except the automobile.

  • More than 70 percent of children ages 5 to 14 (27.7 million) ride bicycles. This age group rides 50 percent more than the average bicyclist and accounts for approximately 21 percent of all bicycle-related deaths and nearly half of all bicycle-related injuries.

  • Head injury is the leading cause of death in bicycle crashes and is the most important determinant of bicycle-related death and permanent disability. Head injuries account for more than 60 percent of bicycle-related deaths, more than two-thirds of bicycle-related hospital admissions and about one-third of hospital emergency room visits for bicycling injuries.

  • The single most effective safety device available to reduce head injury and death from bicycle crashes is a helmet. Helmet use reduces the risk of bicycle-related death and injury and the severity of head injury when a crash occurs. Unfortunately, national estimate report that bicycle helmet use among child bicyclist ranges only from 15 to 25 percent.

  • Florida Law requires that a bicycle rider or passenger who is under 16 years of age must wear a bicycle helmet that is properly fitted and is fastened securely upon the passenger's head by a strap, and that meet the standards of the American Standard Institute (ANSI). The term passenger includes a child who is riding in a trailer or semi trailer attached to a bicycle.

With this in mind, deputies are going to reward helmeted bicyclists 16 and under , with a flashing safety button, inscribed " Be Smart-Stay Smart, Wear Your Helmet," provided by the Brain Injury Association of Florida. Those who are not wearing their helmet will be issued a warning on their first contact. Subsequent offenses can result in a child receiving a $15.00 citation.

Bicycle riders should also know that they have all of the rights and all of the duties that apply to the driver of any other vehicle. Which means, that bicyclists have to obey all traffic laws like a car or motorcycle.

Citizen’s Crime Watch: Keep your neighborhood safe

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Roth is a firm believer in the Citizen’s Crime Watch Program, and he would like more Crime Watches in his county.

“Citizen’s Crime Watch is a terrific way for people to help keep their neighborhoods safe from crime,” Sheriff Roth said. “It isn’t hard to set up a Crime Watch, and it only takes a little time and effort on the part of residents. Our current Crime Watch neighborhoods are a perfect example of how the program works. We consistently see lower crime in neighborhoods with active Crime Watch groups. Crime Watch neighborhoods are definitely safer because people are watching out for each other, and because our Crime Watch members are educated in how to keep themselves, their families and their neighborhoods safe.”

Citizen’s Crime Watch (CCW) members in a particular neighborhood form a network of concerned citizens dedicated to crime prevention. They work in partnership with local law enforcement, becoming additional eyes and ears for those agencies. Frequent Crime Watch meetings are held to educate group members in crime prevention methods and practices. Meetings also provide a venue for citizens to ask questions and pass along concerns to law enforcement officers working in their area of the Keys.

When a member of the Crime Watch sees a suspicious person or vehicle, he or she should call the Sheriff’s Office immediately. Through the use of a telephone chain set up by the Crime Watch, members of the group can keep each other informed of incidents taking place in their neighborhood. Using this same telephone chain, and email when applicable, CCW members receive information from law enforcement concerning persons or vehicles sought by authorities and about crimes and crime trends in their particular area of the Keys.

All it takes is for one person in a neighborhood to come forward and volunteer to be a Crime Watch Chairperson. “We just need a point of contact – a person who will act as Chairperson. We will do the rest,” says Captain Jennifer Bell-Thomson. Captain Bell-Thomson is a true believer in the value of the program and a staunch supporter of her upper Keys Crime Watch neighborhoods. “We’ll contact neighbors, schedule meetings and make sure the meetings are interesting, informative and educational,” Captain Bell-Thomson said.

Captain Bell-Thomson is the Commander of Sector 7, which includes neighborhoods between mile marker 90.2 (Tavernier Creek Bridge) and the county line at the 112 mile marker of Highway U.S. One, including Ocean Reef and parts of Card Sound Road and State Road 905. “We have 27 active Crime Watch Groups, but we have over 40 subdivisions in our area. We would like to see them all included in the program,” she said.

“We not only make it easy to form a Crime Watch group, it costs nothing and members receive all kinds of free benefits,” said Crime Watch Coordinator Deputy Emil LaVache. Deputy LaVache provides each group with free Crime Watch signs to post in their neighborhood, along with house decals, property engraving tools and many crime prevention handouts with useful tips for making homes and neighborhoods safer.

Sheriff Roth would like to see many more Crime Watch groups formed throughout the Florida Keys. The Sheriff’s Office currently has 100 such groups county wide with 25 in Sector 1 (Stock Island to the south end of the Seven Mile Bridge); 15 in Sector’s 4-5 (north end of the Seven Mile Bridge to the south city limits of Islamorada), 33 in Sector 6 (the city of Islamorada) and 27 in Sector 7.

For more information about Citizens Crime Watch, contact Crime Watch Coordinator Deputy Emil LaVache at (305)292-7116 or call the Sheriff’s Substation in your area.

Crime Prevention Tip of the Month:

A  recently published study shows that improved street lighting in residential neighborhoods helped reduce crime by 20 percent. The review assesses why street lighting has this impact on crime. The authors conclude that lighting increases community pride and confidence and strengthens informal social control. The authors also conclude that improvements in street lighting offer a cost-effective crime reduction measure and should be considered an important element in situational crime reduction programs. To view the complete study in Adobe Acrobat Reader format, click here.

If you want to improve the lighting in your neighborhood, or around your place of business, contact your local electric utility company. Street lights can be installed upon request, for a nominal monthly fee.


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Questions or Comments?
Deputy Becky Herrin, Public Information Officer and Web Author or Sheriff Richard Roth via e-mail
For other phone and e-mail contact information, see the "Contact Information" page.

This web site was last updated Thursday February 26, 2004

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