Community Relations Division.............................................  February 2004 Edition

Sheriff's Report:

Tourist season is here, along with traffic and vehicle break-ins

Tourist season is in full swing, as I'm sure anyone who has to drive on the highway is well aware of. Traffic is heavy, as it always is at this time of year and we've seen our share of accidents recently as a result of the increased number of cars out there.

Accidents are almost always caused by someone practicing unsafe driving habits. Some of the most common, and most deadly are passing in no passing zones, or passing when it is unsafe to do so; speeding; driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol; or letting anger interfere with good driving judgment - what the media commonly calls "Road Rage".

Here are my recommendations for staying safe on the road:

First of all, eliminate all of the dangerous driving listed above from your own driving. Instead, add a little extra time into your travel plans, relax and just go with the flow of traffic.

Don't drink and drive - designate a sober driver if you are going out to have a few drinks.

Don't get angry when you drive - most of the time, road rage results from someone getting angry when another driver makes a mistake - just let it go. Pay attention to your own safe driving instead of getting angry about someone else's driving habits. This is particularly true if you have children - children pick up on what you do. If you pound on the steering wheel, scream at other drivers and tailgate them just to "teach them a lesson" then they will probably do those things too when they start to drive. Do you really want to teach your children that type of behavior?

And, lastly, be a defensive driver. Pay attention to what is happening around you at all times. You may be driving with good, safe habits, but others may not be. There are many tourists on our highway who may be looking at our beautiful scenery, or trying to find their hotel. They may not be paying as much attention to traffic as they should. To avoid accidents, keep a safe following distance, make sure you signal turns and change lanes well in advance, turn on your lights at all times to help with visibility and watch what everyone else is doing closely.

Vehicle burglaries a problem:

The reporting of four automobile burglaries in a two day period in late January should serve as a reminder to everyone in Monroe County to always lock a vehicle’s doors when you are not driving it. In all four cases, one in Key Largo and three in the lower Keys, the vehicle owners left them parked overnight, unlocked. A cell phone, charger, stereo, scanner, digital camera and a handicap placard were stolen in the burglaries.

Even if you are only exiting the vehicle for a few minutes, it doesn’t take much effort to lock it. You should also remove any valuable items from sight, putting them under a seat, in a glove compartment, in the trunk, or taking them with you. And remember – no place is really safe - many of these crimes take place in residential areas, when the vehicles are parked in driveways, or on the street in front of the owner’s house.

Save yourself the trouble of dealing with the loss of your belongings, and save us the trouble of doing all the paperwork and investigation associated with a burglary. Lock your car doors and secure your valuables before you become a victim.

Vehicle burglaries in December, by area:

  • Sector 1(lower Keys) - 3

  • Sector 4 (Marathon)  - 7 (6 were unlocked cars)

  • Sector 5 (unincorporated middle Keys) - 1

  • Sector 6 (Islamorada) - 4

  • Sector 7 (Tavernier and Key Largo) - 8 (six were unlocked vehicles)

Take care, and stay safe.

   Sheriff, Monroe County

General News:

Community and Sheriff's Office work together to solve neighborhood problem

The Lincoln Gardens sub-division on Stock Island has recently been plagued by a number of juvenile related incidents, and, with the help and input of the community and the Neighborhood Crime Watch in that area, the Sheriff's Office was able to use forfeiture funds to pay for some extra law enforcement effort to deal with the problem.

Sheriff's deputies were assigned to work special details consisting of driver's license checkpoints and foot patrol.  Four checkpoints of four hours each were conducted with the following results:

  • 63 traffic citations issued

  • 50 written warnings issued

  • 30 verbal warnings issued

  • 5 field contact cards completed

  • 17 criminal citations issued

  • 2 warrant arrests made

  • 2 traffic arrests made

Foot patrol details in the area had the following results:

  • 28 field contact cards completed

  • 2 traffic citations were issued

  • 11 traffic warnings issued

  • 1 stolen car was recovered

  • 1 person arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia

  • 1 person arrested on felony charges

  • 1 vehicle towed

  • 2 Notices to appear in court were issued

As a result, juvenile related incidents have declined, although we have noticed that some of the activity has moved to another area of Stock Island. We will be moving some of our extra patrols and attention to that area next in an effort to keep it in check.

This demonstrates what we can do when a residential area is having a particular problem that needs to be targeted. In this case, the citizens that were being affected called our agency, explained the problem, then worked with us to implement the solution. If you or your neighborhood is having a particular crime-related problem and you would like to work with us to find a solution, give your local substation a call or contact Crime Watch Coordinator Emil LaVache and get the ball rolling.

Sector 7


Changes in Sector 7

By Captain Jennifer Bell-Thomson, Commander Sector 7


There have been many changes in Sector 7 over the past few months – the most welcome are two promotions and several new hires.  Don Fanelli, an 18-year member of the Sheriff’s Office was promoted by Sheriff Roth to Lieutenant and second in command of the Plantation Key Substation in December.

Lt. Fanelli has an impressive record as a law enforcement officer.  He started his career in Ohio where he worked as a deputy and as an undercover narcotics officer.  He saw the wisdom of policing in a warmer climate in 1986 and has worked his way up the ranks during that time.  In 2001 he was recognized as the agency’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.  Lt. Fanelli replaces Lt. Bill Moran who has taken command of the Ocean Reef division of our sector.

Lt. Don Fanelli

Sgt. Deb Ryan was reassigned from her midnight shift supervisory position to fill Lt. Fanelli’s Zone Commander’s position.  Along with running her shift, Deb is now responsible for making all good things happen in her zone – from mile marker 100 to the county line.  She and zone commander Sgt. Lou Caputo make will make an excellent team, and we look forward to good things from her. 

Sean Heffron, another long-time member of the agency, was promoted from deputy to sergeant also in December.  Sgt. Heffron’s experience, knowledge, good decision-making skills and maturity were among the reasons he was chosen for this position.  He will be a great asset to our midnight shift.  

Sgt. Joe Passarelli transferred from the lower Keys to Sector 7 after 14 years in that sector as a supervisor.  Joe brings with him very positive supervisory traits and we’re glad to have him here. 

Sgt. Ryan, Lt. Fanelli and Sgt. Passerelli

Lt. Fanelli and Sgt. Heffron

There are many other new faces among our ranks.  Deputy Lee Cowart who came to us from FWC; Deputy Jim Fitzgerald, formerly of the City of Miami Police Department; and Deputies Ray Jodlowski and Jason Keith, both from Jacksonville.  All experienced law enforcement officers; these new members are a welcome addition to our roster.  As they get out in to the community to meet people I know you will all make them feel welcome.

 We were pleased to learn that for the third year in a row the Neighborhood Crime Watch Chairperson of the Year comes from a Key Largo neighborhood.  Lou Freiheit, chairwoman of the Pirate’s Cove Crime Watch received this award from Sheriff Roth for her strong leadership and many positive accomplishments in that neighborhood.  Congratulations to you, Lou, and thank you from all our members for the work you do.

We were able to add two neighborhoods to our Crime Watch program recently – Sexton Cove and Tradewinds Hammocks. We continue to encourage people to become involved in this program, which we believe is one of the most effective ways to deter crime.  If you are interested in learning more about Neighborhood Crime Watch, please call Deputy Emil LaVache at 292-7116.

 As I reviewed our December burglary statistics I was distressed again to find that in 6 of the 8 auto burglaries the suspect merely opened an unlocked car door to remove the items.  I realize and appreciate that our residents and visitors feel safe – as they should given our low crime rate.  However, just taking one extra moment to lock your car or remove valuables can help lower that crime rate even more.   

Many burglaries and thefts are crimes of opportunity and there are simple ways we can eliminate the opportunity, saving us all time, money and the aggravation of insurance reporting.  If you would like to learn more about protecting your property the Sheriff’s Office offers several free programs – like security surveys of your homes or businesses.  For more information call our Community Relations Division at 292-7116. 

We wish you all a very successful and healthy New Year.


NEWS from Sector 6

By Captain Joe Leiter, Commander, Sector 6

The Holidays were busy in Islamorada with the usual compliment of inbound tourist traffic. The week between Christmas and New Years is traditionally the heaviest week of traffic in the Keys with traffic backing up sometimes 8 miles on the US 1 stretch. The joke goes like this: The only way to get to the other side of US 1 during the tourist, season is to be born there!

The Sheriff was up here this week to present the keys to a seized car to Village Manager Bernie LaPira. The car, a 1996 Mercury was forfeited to the Sheriff's Office when it was used in a felony in Islamorada. Islamorada will use the vehicle for Government business. Sheriff Roth also recently agreed to purchase a new 225 HP motor for one of the Village Patrol Boats to replace the 9 year old Johnson motor that is on there now and to pay for an addition to our small Islamorada Station which we have quickly outgrown. So to our boss we say....thank you.

Sheriff Roth hands over the keys to Bernie LaPira.

County News

County Officials help launch Reef License Plate

Commissioner Spehar, Tax Collector Danise Henriquez, and Philippe Cousteau , grandson of famed marine explorer Jacques Cousteau helped launch the new ""Protect Our Reefs" specialty plate at the Monroe County Tax Collectors office during a recent press conference.

The new license plate depicts a Keys underwater coral reef scene. The Florida Reef is the only barrier reef system in the continental U.S., and like other reefs, suffering tremendous decline. The proceeds from these $25 plates will help fund Mote’s Center for Coral Reef Research in Summerland Key, Florida and other Florida-based organizations involved in research, education and conservation of reefs. The plate is available for purchase at all tax collectors' offices.

Commissioner Spehar, Tax Collector Danise Henriquez, and
Philippe Cousteau , grandson of famed marine explorer Jacques
Cousteau helped launch the new ""Protect Our Reefs" specialty plate

National Endowment for the Humanities Awards grant to Library 

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded the Monroe County Public Library a Preservation Assistance Grant. The project is entitled "On the Waterfront: Preserving Key West's Treasures." Funding will be used to develop a conservation plan for treating artifacts and to train staff on preservation practices. Artifacts in the Library's Florida History collection include: Spanish-American (1898-1900) Sheet music, 1828-1919 Court Documents, and World War I era Waterfront Passes. These passes were used for identification of Key West's waterfront workers. The information on the passes include a small photo, name, birth date and place, occupation and employer.

Over 8,000 annual visits are made to the Florida History Department of the Monroe County Public Library. Researchers from around the world visit the Library seeking primary source information. Recently several educational television and film projects, including those for the History Channel, Discovery Channel, PBS, the Weather Channel and National Geographic, have featured primary sources from the Library's collection. The preservation activities from this grant will allow researchers, genealogists, and scholars greater hands-on access to these special collections.

Crime Prevention Tip of the Month:
Questions and Answers about calling 911

By Communications Shift Supervisor Carol Cain

Question: How do I know if I have a real emergency?

An emergency is when immediate police, fire, or medical assistance is necessary to protect life or property. If an emergency situation arises, ask yourself one important question: Is there an immediate need for police, fire, or paramedics to protect or save life or property? If you can answer, "yes" to this question, then dial 9-1-1.

Question: What should I tell the Communications Officer when I call?

  • Stay Calm; Give your name, location, and nature of the emergency.
  • Listen Carefully to the questions and instructions of the Communications Officer.
  • Answer all questions as accurately as possible. Speak clearly and slowly.
  • Do exactly as instructed during the course of the call.

Question: Should I hang up and try to help, or stay on the line?

Never hang up until you are told to do so. If you hang up and redial, you will go to the end of the line of people waiting for service. It may be frustrating for you, but the Communications Officer will need you to stay on the line until he/she advises you that it is all right to hang up. Be patient if the Officer seems to ask a lot of questions. There are certain things that they must know to provide you with the services you need. Remember, while that Officer is talking to you, getting pertinent information, another one is dispatching help to your location.

Question: If I accidentally call 9-1-1 should I hang up?

No, stay on the phone and let the Communications Officer know that it was a mistake. Also remember to place your cell phone on "Lock or Key lock" mode so that it does not accidentally dial 9-1-1.

Question: Should I dial 911 if I have a non-emergency situation?

No, do not dial 911 for non-emergency situations. For non-emergency situations such as noisy neighbors or incidents which have already occurred, use the non-emergency telephone numbers: (305)296-2424, (305)745-3184, (305)289-2430, (305)853-7021 or (305)853-3211. Never tell the Communications Officer that a situation is more serious than it really is. It is against the law to intentionally and knowingly gives false information to the police or emergency services. Abuse of 911 may delay someone else's access to emergency assistance.

Question: When I call 9-1-1 am I calling the agency that I need for my emergency?

If you need assistance from an agency other than the Sheriff's Office your call will be transferred to the proper agency.


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This web site was last updated Thursday February 26, 2004

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