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WCSO stays proactive, involved in Wakulla County Feb. 2014 Wakulla Times

WCSO STAYS PROACTIVE AND INVOLVED IN WAKULLA COUNTY

BY CHARLIE CREEL
Sheriff, Wakulla County

Over the course of four weeks, three anti-bullying and cyber-bullying sessions were hosted by the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office and Wakulla County School District. The three sessions were sandwiched around the Thanksgiving holidays.

Superintendent of Schools Bobby Pearce and his staff opened the doors to Crawfordville Elementary School and members of our staff discussed the changes in the law related to bullying and cyber-bulling as well as sexting. The three sessions were open to everyone but each week we changed the focus of the meetings slightly to incorporate a specific age group: elementary school age, middle school and high school.

WCSO staff also visited with all of the high school students during assemblies to share their anti-bullying message and many students at the middle and elementary school levels were also exposed to our message.
It was gratifying to see the school district and law enforcement working together for the common good of our students. Superintendent Pearce and I both share the goal of keeping our children safe at all times and we want to provide our young people an opportunity to receive a top notch education free without any fears.

The sessions were attended by between 25 and 50 people and there was an outstanding opportunity to share information with parents, educators and law enforcement.

At the WCSO we have been pleased to work well with other agencies over the course of the day. We have a great working relationship with fire protection and emergency medical services as the WCSO Communications crew dispatches calls for law enforcement, medical and fire calls. The sheriff’s office also works hand-in-hand with the Florida Highway Patrol in addressing concerns involving motorists and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) involving marine and hunting issues.

In early November we were pleased to host a training exercise involving the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and several other area law enforcement agencies as we addressed a scenario where a child was kidnapped.

It was the job of everyone called in to respond to the mock kidnapping to address the intelligence clues that were developed and work together to rescue the child as quickly as possible.
The deployment of materials and manpower that converged on Crawfordville was impressive as was the efforts of the WCSO law enforcement staff who were assigned to work the two day exercise.

Speaking about our connections to Wakulla County young people, we have beefed up our School Resource Officer program to include not only the four deputies at the high school, two middle schools and Sopchoppy School, but we have also included two additional members of our staff who assist the SROs whenever they need it and conduct programs when needed. They have spoken not only to students at the regular Wakulla schools but also COAST Charter School as well.

Another area that I want to address is the large number of Wakulla County residents who don’t take a few extra seconds to lock the doors of their vehicle. Many of our citizens have left their vehicles unsecured and they leave valuables unattended inside the unlocked vehicles.

Many of our citizens have lost their valuables after not taking just a few seconds to lock the car or truck door. These citizens become victims over a task that takes only a few seconds. Very few Wakulla County vehicle burglaries occur following a forced entry. The perpetrators are looking for a vehicle they can get into and out of very quickly and they are finding them. These perpetrators are not looking to create forced entries into the vehicles to steal the property inside. Forced entries take more time and draw unwanted attention to the activities of the perpetrators.

Citizens also need to be very careful about becoming victims of scams. A recent scam that popped up again in late 2013 involved a caller who claimed to be related to an older Wakulla resident. He made a claim that he had been arrested and injured in another country such as Mexico and needed to have funds wired to him.

Many older residents think that their grandchildren are in trouble and quickly come to their assistance not realizing that they are sending money to criminals.
Never give out your personal information over the telephone and never offer to send money to someone unless you are 100 percent sure that it is going to the person you intended to help. Once the money has been sent in a scam it is gone.

Statistics inform us how our drivers are doing on Wakulla County roads and after reviewing the statistics I want to remind motorists to be very careful on our roadways. We have arrested more than 60 individuals for driving under the influence in the past year. The number of arrests does not include statistics compiled by the Florida Highway Patrol.

The WCSO has investigated nearly 200 traffic crashes during the past year and those statistics do not include serious or fatal traffic crashes which we turn over to the Florida Highway Patrol for investigation.
Since August we have made more than 30 arrests of individuals who are driving without a valid driver license. Many have lost their driving privileges due to traffic offenses or failure to pay fines. Many are driving without a valid tag attached to their vehicle which is a clear guarantee that they are also an uninsured motorist. This is not only against the law but it is dangerous for the rest of the driving public.

On a positive note, the Wakulla County crime index rate fell by 28.4 percent as well as decreasing in Florida as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) released statistics from the first six months of 2013. The statistics were compared to the same reporting period in 2012.

The FDLE report covers index crimes that include: murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft. The statewide drop in crime was 5.2 percent.

The WCSO hosted Substance Abuse Violence Education (SAVE) graduation programs at Crawfordville Elementary School and Riversink Elementary School. The program is open to fifth graders who are getting ready to graduate on to middle school. The Medart and Shadeville Elementary School SAVE graduations will be held in the springtime.

The WCSO Road Patrol made an arrest of a Havana man in connection with illegal narcotics. Deputy Mike Zimba observed a motorist fail to stop at a stop sign and conducted a traffic stop. During the traffic stop, the deputy discovered 152.1 grams of marijuana and $160 in cash in the vehicle. The suspect was also given a traffic citation for failing to stop at a stop sign. Sgt. Lorne Whaley, Deputy Ross Hasty and Sgt. Ryan Muse were also involved in the arrest.

Deputy Alan Middlebrooks and Reserve Deputy Matthew Hedges conducted a traffic stop in Newport related to a speeding infraction. They discovered 203.1 grams of marijuana inside the vehicle and two Perry men were arrested on illegal narcotics charges.

The sheriff’s office has offered a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual who shot holes in the WCSO Speed Trailer. The trailer is deployed around the county to tell motorists if they are going too fast on certain roads. The lawless actions of the individual who shot the safety sign created $1,200 in damage to the electronic unit.

The WCSO Employees of the Quarter for the fourth quarter of 2013 were: Delano Taylor of the Maintenance Department. He was selected as the Civilian Employee of the Quarter. Deputy Gibby Gibson was named the Law Enforcement Officer of the Quarter and Jamie Love was named the Detention Employee of the Quarter.

With the new budget year more than two months old, I returned $160,000 to the Wakulla County Commission from our 2012-2013 sheriffs’ office budget. We will continue to strive to save taxpayer money to return to the board while creating the best law enforcement possible for our citizens.

The WCSO staff reacted to a report of a missing 17-year-old Crawfordville teenager by finding her in approximately 25 hours. We are very pleased that we have been able to successfully locate missing persons in Wakulla County. Some of the people we have located left their homes on purpose but sometimes the missing person has mental health issues and gets lost. We have been fortunate to find a few of our citizens who fall into that category as well.

I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the great staff we have at the WCSO for the outstanding work they do on a daily basis. It takes an entire team from administration to law enforcement staff to our communications folks, detention staff, maintenance and everyone in between to make the entire engine fully operational.

I hope everyone is enjoying the New Year. We have put another holiday season behind us and I hope that everyone had a very joyous holiday season and had the chance to spend it with family and friends. Good luck and keep safe in 2014.

 

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