Press Releases issued
September, 1999 - December 1999

For more information, contact Deputy Becky Herrin, Public Information Officer for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. Her contact numbers are: office: (305)292-7116, digital pager: (305)334-0956, FAX: (305)292-7070 and e-mail:

January 31, 2000

Crime down 12.6 percent in Monroe County in 1999

Monroe County – According to figures just released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), major crimes were down 12.6 percent in unincorporated Monroe County (excluding the city of Key West) in 1999, compared to the previous year.

“Crime in Monroe County has consistently gone down over the past 12 years, but this year is an exceptional one. Virtually every category of major crime went down. Everyone in Monroe County should be proud of our officers and our agency for the job we are doing keeping a lid on crime,” said Sheriff Rick Roth.

Major crimes, or “index offenses” as they are categorized by the FDLE, include murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault (violent assaults including battery and aggravated battery), burglary, larceny (which includes all theft and grand theft cases except auto theft) and motor vehicle theft. The only category of crime that did not go down was robbery, which was up by 9.4 percent, with 32 occurring in 1998 and 35 in 1999. Sex offenses went down by a dramatic 40.4 percent, from 57 in 1998 to 34 in 1999. The total number of overall “index offenses” went from 3,566 in 1998 to 3,116 in 1999.

Burglary and Larceny (theft) are the two most common index crimes in Monroe County. Burglary went down 5.9 percent and Larceny went down by 12.4 percent.

“I am particularly proud of our burglary and theft numbers. These are the crimes which happen the most, and which are most likely to effect the lives of our citizens here in Monroe County. Our deputies work hard at burglary and theft prevention, and their work is producing results as we can see by the statistics released by FDLE,” Sheriff Roth said.

For more details on the index crimes that have decreased in Monroe County, see the table, below:


Index Offenses



Percent change





Forcible Sex Offenses








Aggravated Assault












Motor Vehicle Theft




Total Index Offenses





To help prevent crime, and to continue this downward trend in crime numbers, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has a number of crime prevention programs that particularly target burglary, theft and other common types of property crimes. In the Night Eyes Program, deputies on duty at night stop by closed businesses and make sure they are secure. If the deputy finds something he considers a possible risk, he notifies the business owner by making a note of it on a special card he leaves at the business. If the problem needs immediate attention, such as an open window or door, the business owner is called at home and notified of the problem.

The Sheriff’s Office also has active Crime Watch and Crime Prevention programs which offer free security surveys of homes and businesses in the Keys. Citizens may call the Sheriff’s Office and request that an officer visit their property and perform a survey. The officer will then make recommendations for security improvements that will help make the property less of a crime target.

The new SMARTCOP program put into place last summer also concentrates on crime prevention by letting deputies get to know their area of patrol and the people and businesses in that area. Deputies are assigned to patrol an area, or zone, permanently. Their job is to get to know the area and the people and businesses in it.

In addition to responding to reports of crime in the area, they are asked to take the initiative in finding out about problems in their zones, and they are responsible for taking care of those problems by working with the community and with other agencies. For instance, a deputy who sees a street sign missing in his zone might call the Department of Transportation or Monroe  County Public Works to get the sign replaced. A deputy who sees a refrigerator dumped beside the road with the doors still on it would remove the doors immediately to prevent injury to children in the area, and then would report the dumped appliance to the appropriate agency to have it removed.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about crime prevention programs offered by the Sheriff’s Office should call the Sheriff’s Community Relations Office at 292-7116 or 1-800-273-COPS.

January 3, 2000

VINE Program recognized by National 

Domestic Violence Hotline

Monroe County – The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has been recognized by the National Domestic Violence Hotline for it’s outstanding service to victims of domestic violence. This special recognition has been awarded to Monroe County for providing the VINE Program (Victim Information and Notification Everyday), for it’s citizens.

“VINE allows victims of domestic violence to know the whereabouts of their attacker and to obtain, for free, important inmate information by phone, anytime day or night. To date, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has responded to over 91,000 calls, most of which required a referral to a program like VINE,” said Sheryl Cates, Executive Director for the NDVH.

Thanks to Sheriff Rick Roth’s implementation of VINE, this potentially life saving program is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Victims of domestic violence and any other type of crime may call the toll-free VINE line at 1-800-546-4959 to obtain custody information or to register for notification of release, transfer or escape of an offender. For shelter and other information, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available anytime, from anywhere at 1-800-799-SAFE.

“VINE is an important program which benefits the victims of any type of crime. Anyone in the community who wishes to find out the status of an arrested suspect in a criminal case may call the VINE Hotline,” said Sheriff Roth. “We feel strongly that by putting this program in place, we are saving lives,” he said.


December 29, 1999

Deputies will carry rescue device to save people who fall in the water

Monroe County – All Sheriff’s Office vehicles will soon be equipped with a simple and inexpensive device used to rescue people who fall into the water – a necessary item in a county surrounded by the stuff.

The device, called a “ResQ DISC”, is a 12 inch in diameter float disc, bright orange in color, with 100 feet of floating line attached. They can be easily tossed to someone who has fallen into the water, then can be used to tow that person to safety.

The discs are used by law enforcement agencies across the country and have been instrumental in saving many lives. Each disc cost approximately $17.00, and all of the discs were purchased using Federal Asset Forfeiture Funds seized during federal criminal cases. No tax money was used for this purchase.

December 28, 1999

Note: Traffic is expected to be a continuing problem throughout the Keys. Everyone traveling on the county’s roadways should be aware of this, and should plan extra time to get where they are going. Traffic has been especially heavy yesterday and today in Islamorada, and from Big Pine Key south to Key West.

Officers all assigned to duty over the New Year’s holiday

Monroe County – In anticipation of large crowds, and just in case of Y2K glitches, Monroe County Sheriff Rick Roth has assigned virtually every certified law enforcement officer to work over the New Year’s holidays.

All vacations and days off have been cancelled, and all road patrol officers have been assigned to work 12 hour shifts either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. This will place twice as many officers on duty in the county as would be assigned on a normal day or night shift. All these officers will be assigned in their normal patrol areas.

Detectives and other certified officers have been assigned to special duty areas. In particular, 27 officers will be working on Duval Street in Key West between the hours of 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. All traffic enforcement officers have also been assigned to work in the Key West area and will respond where needed in the city. Extra Detention Deputies are also assigned to work area jails to handle the higher than normal number of arrests expected. Sheriff’s Office personnel will also be assigned to the Emergency Operation Centers in the city of Key West and in Marathon.

Two other areas, besides Key West, are expected to be potential trouble spots, and will be areas of concentration for Sheriff’s Office patrols: Holiday Isle on Windley Key and the World Wide Sportsman in Islamorada. Parking restrictions will be strictly enforced in those areas, so anyone planning to be there should make sure to park legally.

There are some specific criminal concerns over the New Year’s holiday:

       Many people fire guns into the air at the stroke of midnight. The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind these people that discharging a firearm in public is against the law, and is extremely dangerous. What goes up must come down, and  many people have been killed by bullets falling out of the sky after having been fired into the air.

       Drunk Driving is, of course, a concern over New Year’s, particularly New Year’s Eve. It is traditional for many people to drink on this holiday. Remember, it is not only against the law to drink and drive, it endangers your own and other’s lives. Designate a sober driver in your group, or call a cab to drive you home. There will be twice as many deputies as normal on patrol New Year’s Eve, and they will be watching out for drunk drivers. The chances are good you will get caught if you take a chance and drive home drunk.

       Parking will be difficult in many areas in the Keys, with all the visitors in the county, as well as all the party-goers out and about. Make sure you park legally. Not only will Sheriff’s deputies be paying attention to your parking job, tow truck drivers will also be out in force….this is one of the most profitable weekends they will experience all year.

Y2K issues are not expected to have a significant impact on any area of the Sheriff’s Office, but Sheriff’s personnel will be on stand by to address any unexpected problems that may arise. All Sheriff’s Office computer systems have been extensively tested and are Y2K compliant. The 911 emergency phone system has also been updated and tested and anyone calling 911 should have no problem getting through to Sheriff’s Office dispatchers for emergency assistance.


Have a happy holiday from all of us at the Sheriff’s Office, but most of all, make it a safe one!


December 20, 1999

Officers and members of 3rd Quarter honored

 The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office recently honored its members and officers of the third quarter of 1999.

The honorees are as follows:

Officer of the Quarter:   Detective Al Ramirez was selected because of  his undercover narcotics work that resulted in numerous arrests, search warrants and seizures of illegal narcotics, cash and vehicles.  Al has been an employee with the Sheriff’s Office since 1989.

Support Member of the Quarter:  Property Assistant Gus Alfonso, a member of the Sheriff’s Office since 1997, was selected because of his work in reorganizing the evidence vault after the evidence room was moved to a new location.

Detention Deputy of the Quarter:  Detention Deputy James Sheagren was selected because of  his initiative in suggesting numerous procedural and  physical changes in the operations of the detention facility at Plantation Key that resulted in greater efficiencies.  Sheagren has been a Detention Deputy since 1996.

Reserve Officer of the Quarter:   Angela Quinones logged in over 274 hours as a volunteer reserve officer and is honored for her commitment to the Reserve Program at the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.  Quinones have been with the Sheriff’s Office since 1996.

Explorer Cadet of the Quarter:  Eric Kosec was selected because of his hard work in helping to plan the cadet post’s activities, including  boot camps, delegate meetings, community safety days and public awareness projects.  Cadet Kosec also volunteered his time for Teen Court and has maintained a high grade point average at Key West High School.

 The officers and members of the quarter received a plaque and a one hundred-dollar savings bond donated by the Holiday Isle Resort in Islamorada.

 Date: November15, 1999

Victim notification program a success in the first six months

Monroe County – A special program, designed to notify victim’s of violent crime when their offender is released from jail has shown great success in its first six months of operation in Monroe County.

Between January and June of 1999, 850 people were called by the Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) program and warned of the impending release of a violent offender from the Monroe County Detention Center. The VINE program provides a 24 hour a day hot-line, which puts offender custody information at a victim=s fingertips and provides automatic telephone notification to registered victims if an offender is released, transfers or escapes.

The program is funded by a grant from the State of Florida, which was just renewed for the year 2000.

Victims of violent crimes, or victims of crimes in which there is a fear of retaliation, are automatically be registered with the VINE program. Anyone else who wishes to be notified of an offender=s release may call a hot line number and register with the program. The hot line number is 1-800-546-4959.

AMany crime victims live in fear of being victimized again by their offender,@ said Sheriff Rick Roth. AProviding crime victims with quick and reliable custody information gives the victim some control over their own safety and security.@

Prior to the advent of this program, victims were notified of offender releases by Detention Center employees who manually called victims of violent crimes when an inmate was released from jail.

The VINE program will strengthen the lines of communication between the victim and the criminal justice system by electronically linking the Monroe County Detention Center=s booking system to the VINE National Call Center. Through a state-of-the-art computer system, the Call Center keeps track as offenders are taken into or released from custody. In addition, VINE keeps confidential records of crime victims who are registered by the Sheriff=s Office to receive custody change notifications

When an officer responds to the scene of a violent crime, and an arrest is made, he or she provides the victim of the crime with a Personal Identification Number, information about VINE and the VINE hot line number. When the officer arrives at the Detention Center booking office, he or she fills out the appropriate victim notification information, which is then  entered into the VINE computer system.

Victims of non-violent crimes, or anyone else in the community who wishes to be notified of an inmate=s release or who wishes to access custody information about an inmate can use the hot line to register for the program, or to ask for information.

Notification calls to crime victims are made as soon as the Call Center gets updated information. Calls continue every half hour for 72 hours or until notification has been confirmed with the registered person=s Personal Identification Number (PIN). If a successful telephone notification has not been made, VINE will issue a letter of notification to the registered victim.

AWhile this program is geared specifically to help victims, I encourage anyone who needs immediate access to offender information to call the VINE hot line,@ Sheriff Roth said.

The VINE service is provided in English and Spanish.

Date: October 19, 1999

Community Notification of Sexual Predator Registration

 Monroe County - The Monroe County Sheriff's Office has been notified by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that a Sexual Predator, designated as such under the State of Florida Sexual Predator law, has registered with the Office of Probation and Parole as living in the Islamorada area.

According to the FDLE, 28 year old Richard William Bell was reportedly convicted of two counts of sexual battery on adult victims. He registered as living at 87401 Old Highway, Trailer #39, in Islamorada. For more information about Bell, or about any other Sexual Predator or Offender, contact the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Sexual Offender/Predator Unit at 1-888-357-7332 or to to their web site at

Bell is reportedly under the supervision of Monroe County Probation and Parole.

This community notification is being made as required by the Public Safety Information Act of 1997. All day care centers and schools within a mile radius of the above address have been notified pursuant to this Act.

Digital photos of Bell are available from this office upon request, and are also available on the above FDLE web site.

September 28, 1999

Officers and Members of the 2nd Quarter Honored

The Officers and Members of the second quarter of 1999 were recently honored at a ceremony held by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in Marathon.

The Officer of the Quarter is Deputy Susan Greenwood who assisted in the rescue of two elderly people from a trailer fire in Marathon.  Deputy Greenwood , a five-year veteran of the department, also organized an update of emergency contract information for many Marathon area businesses. 

The Support Member of the Quarter is Supervisor Jim McInnis, who works with the Bureau of Corrections.  McInnis demonstrated outstanding efficiency in managing  the maintenance of the Detention Center.  McInnis has been a member of the Sheriff’s Office since July of 1996.

The Officer of the Quarter for the Corrections Division is Transportation Officer Frank Orta.  Officer Orta, who’s been with the Sheriff’s Office for ten years, was honored for his outstanding safety record in the transporting of over 265 inmates every month between the main jail and the satellite facilities at Marathon and Plantation Key. 

The Reserve Officer of the Quarter is Ted Migala.  Migala, a reserve officer since 1996, has contributed numerous hours of his spare time to serve as a Reserve Deputy.  His dedication not only provided needed extra manpower for the Sheriff’s Office, but also helped make the community a safer place.

The Cadet of the Quarter is Tia Hanna.  She has been a member of the Sheriff’s Explorer Post 906 since 1996 and has diligently worked just about every detail the Post was assigned to.  She frequently came in on late notice and worked late if needed.  Hanna is also a volunteer for many community activities.

The Officers and Members of the Quarter received a plaque for their accomplishment.   They will also be eligible to be named Officer or Member of the Year.  In addition, Sands of the Keys donated a savings bond to each of the Officers or Members of the Quarter.

Date: September 2, 1999

Six month crime figures show decrease in Monroe County

Monroe County – Crime figures just released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show a marked decrease in crime in Monroe County in the first half of 1999. Numbers in the report include crime which occurred in all areas of the county, excluding the city of Key West.

The report shows an overall decrease of 12.7% of “index offenses” over the same period of time in 1998. “Index offenses” include murder, forcible sex offenses (sexual assault and sexual battery crimes), robbery, aggravated assault (which includes aggravated battery and assault offenses), burglary (both residential and business), larceny (which includes theft, grand theft, auto burglary, shoplifting) and motor vehicle theft.

The reported numbers are as follows: 


1/98 – 6/98

1/99 – 6/99

% of change





Forcible Sex Offenses








Aggravated Assault












Motor Vehicle Theft




Total Offenses




Crime has decreased consistently in Monroe County. It was down 2.6% in 1997 over the previous year, and down 3.7% in 1998 over 1997. Sheriff Rick Roth says he hopes to see this downward trend continue in the second half of 1999, and in future years.

“We are proud of the fact that crime has consistently been down in our jurisdiction,” said Sheriff Rick Roth. “Our deputies work hard to keep the citizens of the county safe and these numbers show they have consistently been successful in their efforts.

“I hope the citizens of the county will see fit to reward their hard work and their success with the eight percent raise I am requesting in the upcoming year’s budget. Without a significant raise in pay, I am afraid we may see a negative effect in our crime trends in the future as our experienced, dedicated officers leave the county to work for other areas of the state with higher pay, and a lower costs of living.”