Community Relations Division............................................September 2003 Edition

Sheriff's Report:

Administrative Changes, Budget Hearings

Due to the impending retirement of our second-in-command at the Sheriff's Office, Colonel Bill McDonald, there have been some administrative changes made at the Sheriff's Office recently.

I'm pleased to announce that Rick Ramsay, formerly Captain of the Sector One Freeman Substation on Cudjoe Key, has been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and will replace Colonel McDonald when he leaves at the end of the year.

Taking his place as the Captain in Sector One is Chad Scibilia, who was the Lieutenant of the Special Investigations Division, where he supervised detectives working general cases throughout the Keys, as well as supervising our Narcotics Investigators, Crimes Against Women and Children's Unit and our Homicide Investigation Squad.

Colonel Bill McDonald Lt. Colonel Rick Ramsay

Colonel McDonald leaves us after 21 years with the Sheriff’s Office. Hired by Sheriff William “Billy” Freeman in 1982 as a deputy, Colonel McDonald was promoted to sergeant in January of 1985 and detective sergeant in November of the same year. He became the Lieutenant at the Marathon Substation in 1986, and a Captain at Marathon in 1989. He was appointed to the position of Colonel in January of 1990.

Taking his place in January, and temporarily holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel until then, is Rick Ramsay. Lt. Colonel Ramsay was hired in 1987 as a deputy. He became a sergeant in 1991, then a detective sergeant in 1998. He was promoted to lieutenant in January of 2000, then Captain of Operations in the Bureau of Corrections in 2001. He held that position for a year before transferring to Captain of the Cudjoe Substation in January of 2002.

Taking over as Captain of the Cudjoe Substation is Chad Scibilia, who is transferring from a position of Lieutenant of the Special Investigations Division. Captain Scibilia was hired as a Corrections Officer in November of 1985. He transferred to road patrol as a deputy in 1987, becoming a sergeant in 1989. In 1999, he was promoted to Lieutenant at the Marathon Substation. He transferred to the Special Investigations Division as Lieutenant in February of 2001.

“I’m sorry to see Bill leave the agency but I know he’s looking forward to his retirement,” said Sheriff Rick Roth. “He’s been with the Sheriff’s Office for a long time and has been with me as my second in command since I became Sheriff. I’m looking forward to working with Lt. Colonel Rick Ramsay. He’s young, dynamic and will be a tremendous asset to the agency as Colonel.”

Budget Hearings coming in September

The County Commission will be holding three budget hearings in September. I have asked for a modest 2.4% raise for our employees this year. It is possible that this amount could be reduced if the County Commission decides to use some of the money earmarked for the raise to keep the cost of health insurance benefits lower, another issue that is important to all of us here at the Sheriff's Office.

We already have a high employee turnover, and have trouble competing with other South Florida law enforcement agencies when it comes to rates of pay and benefit packages. Denying our employees this modest raise could make an already difficult situation even more so.

These issues, and other issues important to the budget process will be decided at the three hearings:

  • September 3rd, Harvey Government Center, 5 p.m.

  • September 10th, Key Largo Library, 5 p.m.

  • September 17th, Marathon Government Center, 5 p.m.

The Sheriff's Office would appreciate any support you can give us at these meetings, or with the County Commissioner that represents your area of the Keys.

Take care, and stay safe.

   Sheriff, Monroe County

General News

Crime Stoppers offers reward for information about diesel engine thefts and vehicle burglaries

Crime Stoppers is offering a $500.00 cash reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons who stole a newly rebuilt marine diesel engine from Marathon in early July.

Detective Lionel Vargas is investigating the theft of the motor, which is estimated to be worth at least $20,000.00. The motor was taken from Keys Boat Works in Marathon. It was last seen the evening of July 9th. According to reports by Detective Vargas, the motor was most likely taken with the help of some type of hydraulic lifting device, because it weighs approximately 2,200 pounds. It is described as a 3208 Caterpillar engine with a rebuilt marine diesel transmission on it made by Twin Disk.

Anyone with information about the theft should contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If a tip leads to an arrest in the case, the caller will receive a reward of $500.00. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.

Crime Stoppers would also like to remind everyone that a cash reward is offered for information leading to any felony arrest, including the theft of any boat motor valued at over $300.00. In the past, there have been numerous boat motor thefts throughout the Keys, including a 250 hp engine stolen last week from Action Marine in Key Largo. Most of the motor theft cases are still under investigation.

Callers to the Crime Stoppers hot line may remain completely anonymous, even when collecting a cash reward and the hot line operates 24 hours a day seven days a week. Call 1-800-346-TIPS.

Nine vehicles burglarized in Key Largo

Sheriff’s detectives are investigating nine vehicle burglaries which took place at an upper Keys auto repair business August 19th.

An employee of Wheaton’s Service Center in Key Largo reported to work Tuesday morning, only to find that nine vehicles parked at the business had been broken into overnight. A large amount of property was taken during the break ins, primarily stereo equipment.

Anyone with information about this case should call the Sheriff’s Office. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If a tip leads to an arrest in the case, the caller would be eligible for a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.

Community Relations Division: School Report

By Sgt. John Barber, Supervisor of the School Resource Unit

Deputy William Schlegelmilch is the new School Resource Officer (SRO) for Key Largo School. Will is already hard at work - he recently completed the first ever two week long combined SRO, Elementary DARE and Middle School DARE Training. These three courses have always been offered separately. Combining them is saving law enforcement agencies both time and money.

School is back in full swing and there have been some changes. As most of you probably know we now have a new superintendent of schools, John Padget. We also have 3 new principals; Barbara Wright at Marathon High School, Leslie Messier at Switlik School and Bruce King at Coral Shores High School. I look forward to working with all of them this school year.

School Crossing Guards have found a new home in the Community Relations Division. We would like to welcome Blanca Rodriguez to the Crossing Guard ranks. Blanca is the new Crossing Guard at Islamorada. We also welcome back Deputy Vincent Catala to the Sheriff’s Office, in the School Crossing Guard unit. Vince has been hired by the Sheriff to supervise the guards working at schools in the city of Key West, as well as filling a guard position himself. Vince has been doing a fantastic job training, supervising and administrating this diverse group. The guards up the Keys will be supervised by none other than yours truly. I am excited about the opportunity to work with each of the 4 guards up the Keys.

Anyone who has any questions or concerns about School Resource Officers, the programs they offer at area schools, or about School Crossing Guards, feel free to contact me anytime via email at or in my office, (305)292-7116.




Art Behind Bars, the art-based community service program for inmates, is pleased to announce that it will celebrate its "9th Birthday Party Show" on Friday, September 19th, 2003, at the Pier House Resort's Caribbean Spa from 6-9 p.m. In addition to showcasing the artwork and community service projects of the local program, highlights of the event will include a show of inmate art from all over the country, and a silent auction featuring the work of local and national artists. The work of Art After Bars will also be shown. There will be food, live entertainment, and of course, birthday cake.

Art Behind Bars is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. All proceeds from the event go back into the program; this is their major fundraiser of the year. The event is sponsored in part by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, Florida Arts Council, Division of Cultural Affairs, National Endowment of the Arts, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, and private donations. For more information, check out their website at or email

Patrol and Operations

Sector 7: National Night Out a success, golf carts, boat motor thefts

By Captain Jennifer Bell-Thomson, Commander Sector 7

Sheriff’s Office members and our Upper Keys Neighborhood Crime Watch groups came together for a very successful National Night Out event on August 5 at Key  Largo Community Park.  This event was intended to draw all our crime watch groups together, to provide educational materials about crime prevention and other services the sheriff’s office offers, and to encourage others to learn more about the effectiveness of neighborhood crime watch.  In all ways the event was extremely successful. We estimated a turnout of about 300 people.

There are so many people to thank for this outcome – not the least of which are our own Sergeants Don Fanelli and Lou Caputo who worked hard all day long in preparation for the event.  Deputy Sean Heffron was our master chef and he, along with Sgt. Fanelli churned out a constant stream of hamburgers and hot dogs until we ran out.  Their able assistants, Beth Kohl and Bethany Fanelli were invaluable to this effort.  Deputy Andrew Leird helped Sgt. Caputo with the kids games – also a big hit. 

Records Supervisor Peggy Bryan and Clerk Carol Johnson, Crime Scene Detective Bobby Haynes, Detective Sergeant Corey Bryan, and juvenile programs member Craig Johnson all were on hand to provide information to the public. 

All deputies and supervisors assigned to the Upper Keys worked that night (on their time off) to provide additional police coverage in neighborhoods while residents were at the park.  There presence went a long way to making people feel more comfortable leaving their neighborhoods in droves to attend the event. 

Key Largo and Tavernier Fire Departments provided heat relief in the form of sprays of water over the fields.  Kids and adults took advantage of this quick way to beat the heat.  Key Largo Fire also delivered the chairs and tables and helped take them away after the event. 

Our crime watch groups were such a great help.  They suffered our planning meetings and were always ready with suggestions for the event.  The side dishes and baked goods, and the very popular popcorn machine were all donated by crime watch groups.   And our thanks go out once again to Winn Dixie and Publix who never fail to come through for us.  Mike Deckert at Winn Dixie and Tom Moore of Publix are two very special, very community-minded individuals. 

We are charged up for next years’ event and look forward to having even more participation from the new crime watch groups we’ll sign up this year. 

Upper Keys citizens browse through crime prevention information at the National Night Out in Key Largo

Community Relations Director Greg Artman stands by to answer questions about crime prevention.


  Many people may not know that Florida statutes prohibit the use of golf carts on any state or local roadway.  The number of golf carts being used to traverse neighborhoods and the bike path seems to be growing throughout the Keys and, while they may be a convenient mode of transportation, they are also dangerous when used where vehicles also travel.

We’ve seen children using golf carts increasingly in neighborhoods.  Parents should recognize the danger this presents to their children.  There is no protection when a golf cart overturns, which happens frequently, even at the low speeds they travel, and there’s no protection when they are struck by other vehicles.   

Sheriff’s deputies in the Upper Keys will be closely monitoring the use of golf carts and educating people about the restrictions on their use.  But after warnings have been given, citations will be issued if a second violation is observed. 

We continue to struggle with boat and boat motor thefts throughout the Keys.  Please keep your eyes and ears open for suspicious vehicles, boats, or people in your neighborhood and don’t hesitate to call to have a deputy come check it out.  We’d much rather have it turn out to be nothing than to discover a crime after the fact.

Note: Last week, detectives in the upper Keys were successful in arrested three men who were stealing a boat and outboard motor. Click here for details of the arrests.

Islamorada: Lobster weekend, Bicycle patrol, New deputies
By Lt. Tom Brazil, Station Commander, Sector 6

During the month of July we have two major events for the Village. The 4th of July is always a busy weekend for us with the influx of visitors. The “Sand Bar” was packed as usual, but no major incidents occurred. The latter half of the month was dominated by the annual lobster sport season, which took place on July 30 & 31. Islamorada implemented a new ordinance this year which prohibited diving within 300 feet of shore and in man made canals and boat basins. This seemed to alleviate a lot of the problems we have experienced in the past with diving along the shoreline. Deputy Nelson Sanchez apprehended a subject diving in Venetian Shores. Upon seeing the patrol boat the suspect dropped his dive bag full of shorts and Nelson dropped his gun belt, donned his mask and fins and went “in deep” after the evidence. The suspect was charged with possessing short lobster and obstruction. Way to go Nelson above and beyond.

Sergeant Williams has worked hard to get the bicycle patrol up and running. We now have two outfitted patrol bicycles purchased with community donations. We would like to thank Kenny McKenny of Theater of the Sea for his generous donation as well as all others in the community who contributed to make this program a reality.

We would like to welcome Deputy Alvin Burns and Deputy Ann Latham to the Islamorada Sector. Deputy Burns comes to us from South Alabama. He has many years of law enforcement experience and even did a stint in Kosovo with the UN-IPTF. Deputy Latham has been around the agency for several years as an Auxiliary Deputy, but recently graduated from the basic law enforcement academy in Key West to become fully certified to work as a deputy sheriff. She retired from the US Coast Guard after 20 years with that agency and brings with her a wealth of knowledge and world experience.


The City of Marathon and Sector 5: New deputies, Lobster season, Handicapped parking
By Lt. Larry Kelley, Commander, Marathon District

Welcome to our newest deputies, Alice Cervantes, Lester Greenwood and Gregg Johnson. Alice has already succeeded in graduated from our 12 week field training officer program and Lester and Gregg are well on their way to the same distinction.

Another Lobster Mini-season has come and gone. Sergeant Suzanne Morgan headed up a special enforcement program of sting operations for three nights. The Special Investigations Division and the Marathon Detective Unit supported the effort. Also, Deputies Willie Guerra, Derrick Paul and Harry Boyden worked “lobster duty” and between them made 13 arrests (NTA’s) and countless boat inspections and cooler checks.

Reserve Sergeant Dave Campbell has some new enforcement partners to help him with his mission to rid the city of inconsiderate drivers who park in disabled spaces. Reserve Deputies Ken Groat and Lynn Faircloth are now out there finding the scofflaws and tagging their cars. I have received countless thank-yous from community members and the Monroe County Council for Persons with Disabilities for their efforts. If you did not know it, all of the time spent by these exemplary deputies is volunteer time, including any court time they may incur. That is what I call true commitment to our community.

Crime Prevention Tip of the Month:

Get In Stride and Stay Safe: Safety Tips for Runners and Walkers

In the Florida Keys, the year round sunny weather allows for year round outside exercise. Each year more and more people take up running and walking because it is a quick, inexpensive way to stay fit. If you travel often, running or walking is an excellent way to maintain your exercise regimen. Here are few pointers to help you keep safe when you hit the road.

Before You Leave

  • Plan your outing. Always tell someone where you are going and when you will return. Tell friends and family of your favorite exercise routes.

  • Know where telephones are located along the course.

  • Wear an identification tag or carry a driver's license. If you don't have a place to carry your ID, write your name, phone number, and blood type on the inside of your athletic shoe. Include any medical information.

  • Don't wear jewelry or carry cash.

  • Wear reflective material.

  • Carry a personnel protection device like pepper spray. You can actually get a device with the pepper spray built into your jogging workout weights.

On the Road

  • Tell a family member or friend where you are going and the time you expect to be back.

  • Stay alert at all times. The more aware you are, the less vulnerable you are.

  • Run or walk with a partner or a dog.

  • Don't wear headsets. If you wear them you won't hear an approaching car or attacker. Listen to your surroundings.

  • Consider carrying a cellular phone.

  • Exercise in familiar areas. Know which businesses or stores are open.

  • Vary your route.

  • Avoid unpopulated areas, deserted streets, and overgrown trails. Especially avoid poorly lighted areas at night.

  • Run clear of parked cars or bushes.

  • Ignore verbal harassment. Use discretion in acknowledging strangers. Look directly at others and be observant, but keep your distance and keep moving.

  • Run against traffic so you can observe approaching automobiles.

  • Trust your intuition about a person or an area. React based on that intuition and avoid areas you feel unsure about.

  • Be careful if anyone in a car asks you for directions—if you answer, keep at least a full arm's length from the car.

  • If you think you are being followed, change direction and head for open stores, theaters, or a lighted house.

  • Have your door key ready before you reach your home.

  • Call police immediately if something happens to you or someone else, or you notice anyone out of the ordinary. It is also a good idea to check with police about any criminal activity in the area you plan to run.

  • Stay Alert

Sometimes runners and walkers get lulled into a "zone" where they are so focused on their exercise they lose track of what's going on around them. This state can make runners and walkers more vulnerable to attacks. Walk and run with confidence and purpose. If you get bored running without music, practice identifying characteristics of strangers and memorizing license tags to keep you from "zoning out."

Running and Walking in the Evening or Early Morning

OK, so you missed the opportunity to exercise during the light of day, but you still want to get in a quick three miles before turning in for the night or before the sun rises. The best advice when exercising while it's dark is to get off the streets and head to the security of a well-lighted outdoor track or consider running on an indoor track or tread mill. If you are a walker, consider laps around an indoor shopping mall. If these options are not available or just aren't for you, consider these tips before heading out:

  • Make sure people can see you: Think about where you are going and how well lighted it may or may not be. Going out at dusk or at night is dangerous without some type of reflective device on your clothing. Many athletic shoes have reflective qualities built in, but also consider a vest complete with reflective tape.

  • Watch the road: Wet or icy spots are considerably harder to see in the dark.

  • Keep alert. Dawn and dusk offer convenient shadows for muggers and other crooks.

Away From Home

Many people have taken up running and walking so that they will be able to exercise when they are traveling. Remember just because you are away from home doesn't mean you can let your guard down when you exercise.

  • Check with the hotel staff or concierge to find safe routes for exercise. If there is not an acceptable place to exercise outdoors, see if the hotel can arrange access to a health club or gym.

  • Become familiar with your exercise course before you start. Get a map and study it.

  • Remember the street address of the hotel. Carry a card with your hotel address along with your personal ID.

  • Leave your room key with the front desk.

  • Follow your usual safety rules.

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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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