The Clay County Sheriff’s Office closed the books on 2006 having accomplished many improvements, cost saving measures and crime fighting programs. Below are a few of them.
The number one complaint by citizens in 2006 continues to be speeders, red light runners and aggressive drivers. By expanding the use of Public Service Aides (7 full time), traffic deputies were freed up from working minor crashes to provide proactive traffic enforcement. Traffic related citations increased from 14,982 in 2004 to 22,166 in 2005 to 24,873 in 2006. A corresponding reduction in traffic homicides was the result with a 24% reduction from 36 in 2005 to 28 in 2006. “The greatest danger to the citizens
of Clay County continues to be from traffic related injuries or death resulting from aggressive drivers. We will continue to try to reduce the carnage on our streets and highways by addressing traffic violations,” Sheriff Rick Beseler said.
The Volunteers in Police Service Program (VIPS) began on October 1st, 2006 fulfilling a campaign promise of Sheriff Beseler’s to expand volunteer opportunities. An thorganizational meeting of volunteers will take place on January 9. This program will
use volunteers to perform a host of functions such as checking on the elderly, vacation property checks, distributing crime prevention information and working with the Police Activities League (PAL).
Speaking of the PAL, it continues to expand at an unbelievable pace. PAL moved into a spacious facility on Blanding Boulevard with greatly expanded programs and services. PAL now has 150 children enrolled with a waiting list to be involved in programs and several hundred others who participate in seasonal activities throughout the year. Nothing is more important than our youth, as they are the future of Clay County.
New programs that save money and increase efficiency began in 2006. Our new Crime Scene Technician Program trains civilians to take over crime scene processing and evidence collection, freeing deputies to perform patrol duties. Clay County is the first in our region to have our very own CSI unit in real life.
Our Animal Crimes Unit became a reality in 2006 and this year alone nearly thirty arrests were made by Deputy Annie Henderson of people who abuse defenseless animals. Accolades from across the country have come in about this badly needed crime program.
Efforts to protect our fragile environment were doubled in 2006 because of a cooperative agreement between the Sheriff and Public Works Division. The current Environmental Crimes Investigator position was funded as well as an additional deputy who will work directly under the Public Works Division. They will work to apprehend those who abuse our environment with better environmental dumping enforcement.
Last summer, the Juvenile Crimes Unit conducted weekly operations to detect open house parties where alcohol was provided to underage children. Strict enforcement of curfew laws and possession of alcohol by minors was designed to reduce vandalism and thefts associated with these activities. Routine compliance checks of vendors who
provide alcohol to minors also helped curb underage drinking. Twenty-eight arrests were made in 2006 for hosting an open house party and forty-five people were arrested for selling alcohol or tobacco to minors.
The Community Relations Unit, also known as COPS, surpassed a milestone by increasing the number of Neighborhood Watch Programs from just 40 in 2004 to over 126 in 2006. A “Sharing Tree” computer and mail program now informs over 10,000 e-
mail users daily of criminal activity in their neighborhoods. To sign up for the e-mail Sharing Tree, go to www.claysheriff.com. Operation Clean Sweep used code
enforcement to clean up neighborhoods of junk cars and overgrown or unkempt property to keep neighborhoods from looking like high crime areas.
In 2006, an Internet Crimes Against Children Program was initiated to target criminals who prey on our children on-line and a second employee was added to keep track of and register sexual predators and offenders. For offender/predator information, go to our website at www.claysheriff.com and click on the FDLE link to locate
individuals living near you.
In 2006, the Clay County Jail was reaccredited by the Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission for the next three years after an exhaustive review by outside evaluators. The report was very complimentary of jail operations with absolutely no blemishes on the report.
The Sheriff’s Cost Cutter Program continued to reward employees who make
recommendations of cost cutting efficiencies. Examples of cost cutter savings range from implementing contracts with inmate health care providers and pharmacies to get reduced service fees similar to insurance companies, which helped to save $400,000 in inmate health care costs, to eliminating printed research material for Dispatchers and switching to free online data companies. Inmate medical costs alone were down 37% from 2004 to 2006.
Closer scrutiny of phone usage, particularly cellular phones, resulted in astronomic monthly bill reductions. A review of monthly bills from 2004 to 2006 shows a savings of $131,500 over the 2-year period. This reflects a 48% decrease from 2004.
We are now one step away from being recognized as a “well work place
environment” which will qualify the department for discounts on employee health insurance premiums and a savings to employees and taxpayers. Quarterly health fairs in 2006 featured mammograms and cardiovascular screening. These identified several potentially life-threatening situations for employees. Exercise, diet and prevention are stressed as part of a comprehensive program to insure employees are healthy and prepared to perform their jobs. Hundreds of pounds of weight were lost by employees in a weight loss challenge and winners were rewarded with donated prizes including a Bahamas cruise vacation. This all contributes to healthier, more productive employees to serve the public. In 2006, in large part due to these health-related initiatives, approximately 3,500 fewer hours of sick leave were taken compared to 2005.
Twenty-five additional deputies were approved by the Clay County Commission in the 2006/2007 budget process. This will allow expansion in the number of beats, especially in areas of high growth like Oakleaf Plantation, Fleming Island and Lake Asbury. Response times should improve as a result. In addition, new deputies will help combat a growing crime rate linked to the population explosion, as Clay is one of Florida’s fastest growing counties. Deputies received a 5% average pay increase, keeping Clay County very competitive with other agencies regarding salaries.
By using money seized from drug related criminal cases, our K-9 Unit expanded from two dogs to five dogs, allowing for around-the-clock drug sniffing, tracking and criminal apprehension abilities using dogs. A new, fully-equipped Dive Team truck was purchased at no cost to taxpayers, to assist in search and rescue efforts. Over $100,000 in cash was seized or forfeited in 2006 from criminals – a 79% increase over 2004 figures.
This agency continues to have a crime clearance record among the highest in the state due to the professionalism and dedication of the men and women of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. As we look forward to 2007, our agency’s focus now turns to broadening and expanding our efforts.
“We will continue to make traffic enforcement and the reduction of traffic-related
fatalities a priority and we have set a goal of overall crime reduction by targeting career criminals responsible for the majority of crimes in our county”, Sheriff Beseler said. “As in 2006, we will set our sights on spending agency funds efficiently, saving more money for tax payers whenever possible while still providing top-notch law enforcement services”, he added.