Spring Break Over; Crime Continues to Decline
We've made it through another spring break. In the county, when it comes to law enforcement, we didn't see an overwhelming amount of spring break activity. The Detention Center on Stock Island, on the other hand, was extremely busy with a large number of Marchman's Act cases and arrests made primarily by the Florida Department of Alcohol, Beverage and Tobacco and the Key West Police Department.
During the heaviest spring break period, we had both a transportation officer and a booking officer assigned to the command post set up by Key West Police downtown. Having those officers assigned helped move the whole process along and helped reduce the congestion levels in the booking area of the Stock Island facility.
We have seen extremely heavy traffic throughout the Keys this year. I think the consensus is the traffic is worse than usual for tourist season, and we can probably expect it to continue in that vein until at least May, when it should begin to slow down some.
I want to let you all know what a terrific job out officers are doing to keep the citizens of our county safe. Our agency continues to see a downturn in crime, including a dramatic decrease in burglaries over the past seven years. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported 1,099 in 1997 and only 468 in 2002. FDLE hasn't released 2003 yearly numbers yet, but their six month figures show yet another decrease in our burglary numbers for that time period.
Other crime numbers have come down over the years as well. According to FDLE, in 1997 we had a reported 4,543 larcenies, and in 2002, there were 2,076. Violent crimes are down as well, with 516 aggravated assaults reported in 1997 and 245 reported in 2002.
Overall, crime in the county has seen a steady downturn for the past 13 years. In 1991, we had a total of 4,089 index crimes reported. Index crimes are the major crimes tracked by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement state-wide. In 2002, that number was down to 2,992. That is truly an amazing and impressive statistic. There are certainly many factors contributing to the reduction of crime in our county, but I truly believe the hard work of our law enforcement officers plays a big part in it.
Take care, and stay safe.
Easter on the Sheriff's Office Animal Farm
The Sheriff's Office Animal Farm on Stock Island will hold it's annual Easter celebration Sunday, April 4th from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. Children should bring their Easter baskets because the Easter Bunny will be hiding eggs on the farm especially for them to find during a special Easter Egg Hunt. Children may also visit with the animals at the farm, and pet a selection of animals including rabbits, goats, a cow, geese and pigs.
The Animal Farm is open to the public on a regular basis, on the first and third Sundays of every month between the hours of 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Art Behind Bars Events
Art Behind Bars, the art-based community service program for inmates, is pleased to announce two events in April: On Saturday, April 3rd, 6-10 p.m., Dr. Jake Rutherford and KT Timberlake will host a cocktail party at their beautiful canal-side home that will feature food, libations, entertainment, and a reading of excerpts from the play “Rock Stars” by playwright Barbara McConagha - a series of monologues about program participants performed in collaboration with the Red Barn Theatre. All proceeds benefit Art Behind Bars. Admission is $50 per person. For tickets or more information, phone 304-7861.
National Crime Victim’s Rights Week is April 18-24, 2004
This year, in honor of those service providers, justice professionals, and others who seek to promote greater public awareness about a serious problem that affects most people in America, the youth of our community will be presenting an Art Exhibit at the courthouses throughout Monroe County, which will be reflective of this year’s theme “AMERICA’S VALUES”. During the week of April 18th, in cooperation with the Administrative Courts of the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Fraternal Order of Police, Monroe County Public School System and those who have given selflessly to help others, we invite you to visit your local courthouse and admire those depictions of America’s Values through the eyes of our children.
Detective looking for help solving residential burglary
Upper Matecumbe - Detective Don Dalton is looking for help from the public in solving a residential burglary that took place in Upper Matecumbe Key on March 17th. Crime Stoppers is offering a $500.00 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.
A house at the 80.1 mile marker of the highway was broken into just before 10 p.m. The victims came home to find the kitchen door open and a safe missing from the house. Suspects had broken in by removing jalousies from the bathroom window and climbing inside. Once inside, they stole a safe with a large amount of jewelry and other valuables inside. The safe was later found abandoned in south Dade County. All the valuables had been removed.
Among those items stolen were a large number of silver coins of various types, a four and a half carat diamond ring, a solid gold 18 carat Juvenia watch, a miniature crocodile briefcase, a diamond and emerald tennis bracelet, three solid gold cigarette lighters, a solid silver whiskey decanter, and a women’s gold Rolex watch with a diamond face.
Detective Dalton is looking for information about who might have committed the crime, as well as information which might lead him to recover the stolen items. Anyone with information about this case should contact the Sheriff’s Office immediately. Callers can also call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If a tip leads to an arrest, Crime Stoppers is prepared to pay the tipster $500.00 in cash. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS. Email tips may also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Islamorada: Traffic, traffic and more traffic
By Captain Joe Leiter, Commander, Sector 6
Well the biggest event during the past month for us here in Islamorada was: Traffic, Traffic and more Traffic! We had many phone calls and questions about what was causing all the traffic backups…..let’s see….
Bike Week, Spring Break beginning, Tourist Season, road construction at Snake Creek Bridge, Snake Creek Bridge openings, the DOT Weight Station at Snake Creek Bridge and some local events at Holiday Isle and the Rotary Flea Market which was 3 days this year instead of two. Add to all that several crashes each day and you have the mix that backed up traffic for miles. The 2-lane highway was simply at capacity for most of the daylight hours. In my 25 years here with the Sheriff’s Office, I don’t remember a winter tourist season when traffic was this bad. It seems that more and more people have discovered the Keys.
Boat Enforcement Deputy Nelson Sanchez reports that enforcement of the new Minimum Wake Zone in Snake Creek has been very successful with 90 % of the boats obeying the posted zone……Nelson gets to “meet and greet” some of the other 10% but very few have been cited. Usually a warning and some education gets compliance.
The Islamorada District took delivery of a new Mercury 225 HP motor that was installed on our 22’ Angler Patrol Boat. The new motor replaced a 8 year old Johnson outboard and was paid for by the Sheriff’s Asset Forfeiture Fund, which utilizes money seized from drug activity and other criminal cases. This gives the Sheriff’s Office and Islamorada two fast response Patrol Boats including the 2003 24’ Nautica Ridged Hull Inflatable.
|From the left is Lenny Whitely, Rex Brumgart, and Bayshore Manor Senior Administrator Susan Scarlet enjoying the new garden and fountain.
Bayshore Manor's New Garden
Bayshore Manor, Monroe County's Assisted Living Facility, has a beautiful new garden and fountain thanks to a generous donation from Bob Crane. The garden has become a favorite place for residents and visitors to gather and enjoy the soothing sounds of the fountain. Patrick Tierney of Tropical Landscapes designed and supervised the installation of the beautifully landscaped garden and fountain, which now grace the patio area of Bayshore Manor.
County Donates bus to Big Pine Neighborhood Charter School
|In the front row: Mr. Davis kindergarten class from Big Pine Neighborhood Charter School (BPNCS). In the back row from left, BPNCS Executive Administrator Moby Madisetti, Commissioner Dixie Spehar, and BPNCS Board President Duncan Mathewson celebrate arrival of donated bus. Photo by Jonathan Weinshank
Monroe County donated an 11-year-old surplus 12-seater bus to the Big Pine Neighborhood Charter School. The van will be used to transport children to and from school for field trips and other events. The County's Social Services Department Transportation program originally used the bus to transport disadvantaged citizens throughout the County. It is equipped with a wheelchair lift and seating for two wheelchairs.
"The transfer of ownership from the County to the School is a win-win situation; the school as well as the County benefit from the continued usage of the bus," according to County Transportation Director, Jerry Eskew.
County Commissioner Dixie Spehar and the rest of the BOCC were instrumental in smooth transfer of the bus to the School. "The bus was part of the County's regularly scheduled fleet reduction. Other organizations could consider this option in the future," according to Mr. Eskew. For further information about the County's Social Services Department, Transportation program, contact them at 305-292-4422 or visit the website http://www.monroecounty-fl.gov/pages/csd/SSD/transpor.htm
The 2004 hurricane season is just around the Corner
Monroe County stands ready to help protect County residents and visitors. The following helps explain Re-Entering Monroe County after a Mandatory Evacuation.
Evacuation of Monroe County is not a simple call. It is important to remember that evacuation is ordered only when officials believe that lives are in danger.
The obvious threat from a hurricane is storm surge, winds and wind-borne debris. Not many Keys residents are aware that these aspects of a storm can—and probably will, even in a moderate storm—deprive at least part of the county of electricity, passable roads, reliable emergency services, operating medical facilities, and access to groceries, prescriptions and other supplies, all while presenting safety issues that the average citizen is not prepared to handle.
For example, if telephone and power lines are down, cell phones may not work, live wires may be electrifying thousands of feet of soaked yards and roads, and parts of homes, trailers, overturned vehicles and trees may block every road in your neighborhood. Recent studies reveal that a larger number of people suffer severe and fatal injuries after, as opposed to during an event, from live wires, injuries received while clearing debris, and other avoidable complications.
Monroe County Emergency Management has established a protocol for re-entry. If followed, this system will allow residents to return to their homes with as little delay as possible and with a considerable reduction of risk.
Immediately following a storm, essential personnel will be allowed to return to Monroe County. These people will not be returning to their homes, but will tackle any hazards or physical obstacle that would prevent the safe return of residents and property owners to the Keys.
What you can do:
When an evacuation is ordered, already have a destination planned. Plan to stay at your evacuation destination until you learn that it is safe to come back. Monroe County will open in stages after a major storm; if Islamorada is untouched but only US 1 in Key Largo can be cleared for passage, City of Islands residents will be allowed to return home before people whose passage in Key Largo is blocked.
Get your reentry windshield stickers now. One for each vehicle registered in your name can be obtained from the sheriff’s substation nearest your home.
Traffic will not be allowed direct access to the 18-mile stretch or to Card Sound Road, but will be diverted to the staging area at the Homestead Race Track parking lot. There, vehicles will be segregated according to their reentry stickers in order to facilitate the most orderly traffic flow possible. As each area is determined to be safe enough for residents’ return, vehicles bearing Reentry Stickers corresponding with the safety zones will be allowed to renter the county.
It is very important to remember that there will be no food or other services available at the staging area; hotels will be booked and many stores will have trouble keeping up with the sudden increase in demand by waiting returnees. This is another reason to remain at your evacuation destination until you are certain it is safe to proceed home.
Major networks, radio stations, and the Weather Channel will broadcast scrolling announcements that will indicate whether or not residents may return to Monroe County. However, the Emergency Information Hot Line at the Monroe County EOC (1-800-955-5504) and the Florida state Emergency Information Hot Line (1-800-342-3557) will also provide reliable updates about reentry.
Enhanced 911 Service
The wireless Enhanced 911 (E911) seeks to improve the effectiveness and reliability of wireless 911 service by providing 911 dispatchers with additional information on wireless 911 calls, such as automatic number identification, automatic location identification and/or selective routing. Selective Routing is the routing of a call by the 9-1-1-telephone system to the proper PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point). Selective Routing is accomplished by the combination of ESN (Emergency Service Number) and customer location information.
The wireless E911 program is divided into two parts - Phase I and Phase II. Phase I requires carriers, upon appropriate request by a local Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), to report the telephone number of a wireless 911 caller and the location of the antenna that received the call. Phase II requires wireless carriers to provide far more precise location information, within 50 to 100 meters in most cases.
The deployment of E911 requires the development of new technologies and upgrades to local 911 PSAPs, as well as coordination among public safety agencies, wireless carriers, technology vendors, equipment manufacturers, and local wireline carriers. The FCC established a four-year rollout schedule for Phase II, beginning October 1, 2001 and to be completed by December 31, 2005.
Norm Leggett is Monroe County's 911 Coordinator. For further information please contact him at (305) 743-7570.
Crime Prevention Tip of the Month:
If Someone You Know is Being Abused
Editor's note: The article below refers to the abuse victim as a woman, because most victims of domestic violence are women. This does not mean that men cannot be victims of such a crime as well.
You may have a friend, relative or neighbor who is being abused. You may have witnessed the violence, heard it, seen physical signs of it, or merely suspected it for various reasons. What should you do?
- Ask direct questions, gently. Giver her ample opportunity to talk. Dont rush into providing solutions.
- Listen - without judging. Abused women often believe their abusers negative messages. They feel responsible, ashamed, inadequate, and are afraid they will be judged.
- Let her know that you support and care about her, that shes not responsible for the violence, that only the abuser can stop the violence.
- Explain that physical violence in a relationship is never acceptable, at any time. Theres no excuse for it - not alcohol or drugs, not financial pressures, not depression, not jealousy.
- Make sure she knows that shes not alone - that millions of American women from every ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic group suffer from abuse, and that many women find it difficult to leave.
- Explain that domestic violence is a crime - as much of a crime as robbery or rape - and that she can seek protection from the justice system.
- If she has children, reinforce her concern for them, letting her know that domestic violence is damaging to children. In fact, you may want to reach out to support her children, and let them know youre there for them, too.
- Let her know that it is likely that, in spite of his promises, the violence will continue and, probably, escalate.
- Emphasize that when she is ready, she can make a choice to leave the relationship, and that there is help available.
- Provide her with information about local resources.
- She may need financial assistance, or help finding a place to live or a place to store her belongings. She may need assistance to escape. Decide if you feel comfortable helping out in these ways.
- Contact your local domestic violence program yourself for advice or guidance.
- If she is planning to leave, remind her to take important papers with her, such as birth certificate, passport, health insurance documents, etc.
- If she remains in the relationship, continue to be her friend while at the same time firmly communicating to her that she and her children do not deserve to be in this violent situation.
- If you see or hear an assault in progress, call the police. But because these assaults are often dangerous, do not physically intervene.
As brutal as it sounds, more women are murdered by their husbands and boyfriends than by strangers - a frightening and unacceptable statistic.
What happens when someone is arrested for Domestic Battery?
When a significant other (husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, life partner) is arrested, he or she is held in jail until going to a First Appearance or bond hearing before a judge. At that hearing, the judge will decide whether or not a bond will be required for release and the condition of the release, or whether the person arrested can be released under the supervision of Pre-Trial Services. At this point, the criminal process has begun and the person who was arrested is now known as the Defendant.
In order to make decisions about the defendants release, the judge will rely on input from the arresting officers report, from Pre-Trial Services officers who have interviewed the defendant and from the Victim Advocate who attempts to contact the Victim for their views on release of the defendant.
Pre-Trial Services completes a criminal history check and contacts the victim to inquire if the victim would be in fear of further violence if the defendant is released. The Victim Advocate (working closely with the prosecutor) will also make contact with the victim to inform the victim of the outcome of the hearings and offer any assistance the victim may need.
The judge will take into consideration what the State recommends, as well as the offices of Pre-Trial-Services (who may or may not recommend that the defendant be released without bond and under their supervision) as well as the Victim and the defendants attorney.
As a general rule the judge will issue a NO CONTACT Order upon the defendants release from custody. This Order means that the defendant is prohibited from returning to the residence and cannot contact the victim in any way. The No Contact Order will remain in effect for the entire duration of the criminal proceedings, unless changed by the judge. In situations of extreme danger it may be advisable for the victim to also obtain a Restraining Order, which will more severely limit the defendants contact with the victim and family.
The Office of the State Attorney and the Victim-Witness Assistance Program will make every effort to encourage the victim to come to their offices as soon as possible to meet with the Assistant State Attorney and Victim Counselor who will be handling their case.
One of the most important aspects of the criminal prosecution of a domestic battery case is to explaining our No Drop policy. This policy means that the State of Florida, not the Victim, presses charges against the Defendant. The victim is not responsible for the case being prosecuted against the defendant. The Office of the State Attorney decides whether a defendant is charged and subsequently taken to court for the crime of domestic battery. The case against the defendant is not dropped unless the State finds that the charges are unwarranted (without legal merit).
Even though the victims input on any plea offer and sentencing is very helpful, the ultimate decision as to whether a plea or sentence is acceptable belongs to the Judge. The Assistant State Attorney will make every effort to contact the victim to discuss possible pleas and sentencing.
Prosecution of this type of case is generally between 4 to 6 months.
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This page last updated on
April 2, 2004