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The Cyber Star

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July 2006

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail newsletter to find out the latest here at the Polk County Sheriff's Office. Feel free to share with us any thoughts or ideas you may have on how we can better serve you as well. Enjoy this latest edition of the Cyber Star!

in this issue

·  A note from Sheriff Judd

·  Busted! Undercover Sting Nabs 21 Online Predators

·  Jail Programs Help Inmates Turn Lives Around

·  Crime Prevention Tip of the Month: Water Safety

·  PCSO Bids Farewell to 2 Faithful K-9s

·  What Others Are Saying!

 

Busted! Undercover Sting Nabs 21 Online Predators

UC stingIn a six-week long investigation that culminated in a 3-day weekend undercover operation, Polk Sheriff’s detectives, posing as children on the Internet, arrested 21 adults, most whom traveled into the county and intended to have sex with children. The undercover operation, led by the Polk Sheriff’s Office, included detectives from the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The multi-agency effort, directed by PCSO detectives, will enhance prosecution extending across several jurisdictions, and is an alliance that demonstrates law enforcement’s continuous commitment to fighting Internet crimes against children.

In approximately 72 hours, online predators, stalking who they believed to be young girls and boys, arrived at an undercover location, walked into a house, and were immediately handcuffed by deputies. “We absolutely will not tolerate anyone preying on our children,” said Sheriff Grady Judd. “I want the community to know that we are doing all we can to protect our children. If you come to Polk County to attack our children, we will put you in jail.”

The majority of the suspects, often called “travelers” because they are willing to travel to their prey, typically use the Internet to groom children as young as eight years of age, into having sex. Internet Crimes Detectives used chat rooms and instant messaging to direct suspects to the location. In the words of one undercover detective, “You really don’t want to see what they type.”

Suspects arrested between June 23-25 had multiple charges, such as Solicitation of Minor via Internet, Transmission of Material Harmful to Minors, Drug Possession, and Attempted Lewd Battery. Detectives also seized three vehicles and one motorcycle. More arrests are forthcoming - those who chatted online with our detectives but did not come to the undercover location will be located and arrested as well.

 

Jail Programs Help Inmates Turn Lives Around

Crist's visit to Faith Based DormIn previous issues of the Cyber Star, we told you about our new Faith-Based Initiative in the jails. We're proud to tell you today that the program has met with great success, and is an excellent partner to our already established and award-winning JASA (Jail Alternatives to Substance Abuse) program. Florida's Attorney General Charlie Crist recently visited the jail and heard about both successful programs.

JASA is a prevention program that has become one of the most successful partnerships to which the Sheriff’s Office belongs. The multi-effort partnership includes Tri-County Human Services, along with the Board of County Commissioners, Sheriff’s Office volunteers, and Sheriff’s Office members. Volunteers and staff work with drug-addicted inmates while they are incarcerated. Inmates are provided a variety of life skill training opportunities to help them prepare for the world outside of jail.

JASA has been providing treatment to male inmates in the Polk County jail for the past four years. Since its inception, the male JASA program has received statewide recognition for its outstanding treatment program by the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association along with the Department of Children and Families. Since 1999, and through December of 2005, there were 515 program completions, with 70 percent of graduates remaining out of the criminal justice system for over one year, and of those, 47 percent have remained out of the criminal justice system for over six years. JASA established a female program in 2005 and was also awarded “Best Practices in Treatment” by the FADAA and DCF.

JASA is one of several programs offered as part of the faith-based initiative. In addition to JASA, inmates can improve their lives while incarcerated through mentoring and residing in designated dorms. Approximately 75 volunteer ministers/mentors offer guidance and support to inmates in conjunction with the faith based community providing voluntary referrals. Participants attend classes and treatment options in the dorms that include a 12-Step treatment program, parenting classes, religious services, empowerment courses, etiquette skills, employability skills training, education/GED programs, and other life skill improvement classes. The program offers referral services with listings of programs that can assist the inmate with food, housing and treatment as they transition back into the community.

When we began this program last year, we knew it would have a positive impact on our community. So far we've seen an 81% overall success rate in participating inmates with only an 19% recidivism rate for those program participants. Not only do we lock up law breakers, we give them the opportunity to turn their lives around while paying their debts to society. The bonus in this program is that the faith based community volunteers their support. There is no cost to taxpayers. And as result of the volunteers' hard work and dedication, together, we are able to make Polk County a safer place to live.

 

Crime Prevention Tip of the Month: Water Safety

 

Here in Polk County, we are blessed with 554 lakes. Many of us often enjoy the summer by spending time out on the lakes boating and enjoying water sports, or relaxing and swimming at the pool. The summer months are here, the kids are out of school, and everyone wants to have FUN! So, we would like to take this opportunity to offer some useful safety tips that will help keep you safe as you enjoy summertime water activities.
  • Never swim alone. Parents of young children should always watch their kids closely. Adult supervision is a MUST.
  • Always use Coast Guard-approved life jackets for yourself and your passengers when boating and fishing.
  • Whenever possible, swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard.
  • Read and obey all rules and posted signs while at the pool or out on the lake.
  • Use a feet-first entry at all times when entering the water. Diving headfirst into water of an unknown depth could result in severe injury.
  • Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming or boating at the first indication of bad weather.
  • Always make sure you avoid becoming too cold, too hot, or too tired. If you start to feel out of the ordinary it is time to call it a day or take a break until you feel better.
  • Keep yourself adequately hydrated; the heat of the summer months can lead to a heat stroke or dehydration. Drink plenty of water. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages which can dehydrate your body and increase the effects of the sun.
  • Do not mix alcohol with swimming, diving or boating. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance, and coordination.

In Polk County, 14 people of all ages drowned in 2005, according to Florida's Office of Vital Statistics. The best thing an adult or child can do to reduce the possibility for injury while enjoying the water is to learn how to swim. Let’s stay safe this summer and reduce the number of water related injuries.

 

PCSO Bids Farewell to 2 Faithful K-9s

 

Sgt. Herb Bennett and Deputy Deanna Pry said goodbye to their faithful partners, friends, and companions - canine Cezar, a 7 and a half year veteran of the agency's K-9 Unit, and canine Jerry Lee, a 5 year veteran - when they passed away on Friday, June 2, 2006, and Saturday, June 3, 2006, respectively, due to illness.

 

cezarCezar was a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois when he began working here with his handler/owner Deputy Sheriff Herb Bennett in 1996, and he retired from duty in 2003 when his partner was promoted to Sergeant. He has enjoyed 3 years of retirement at home with the Bennett family and his offspring, Keito, who is a K-9 partner to Sgt. Bennett’s wife, Leanne, an LPD officer. Cezar fell ill recently, at the age of 13.5 years, and was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The family bid a sad farewell to their pet and loyal companion on Friday, and will keep his ashes in an urn in their home, with the following quote: "May God watch over you as you’ve watched over me."

Cezar was one of the most award-winning K-9s in the history of the agency, taking 1st place in the state USPCA field trials and 4th place in the nation in 2002. Cezar will be deeply missed, and the agency will forever be grateful for his skills and expertise, and his long years of loyal and dedicated service.

 

jerry lee

Jerry Lee, a German Shepherd, was 1 year old when he began working here with his handler/owner Deputy Sheriff Deanna Pry in 1999, and he retired from duty in 2004 due to ill health. He enjoyed 2 years of retirement at home with the Pry family and his female “companion” Leah. He would have been 8 years old this July. He sired several litters of puppies during his lifetime, and many of those dogs are owned by fellow agency members.

“For 5 years Jerry Lee worked the road with me, always at my side. He loved his co-workers and he knew they were his friends,” says Deanna Pry. “He worked hard for them and he was responsible for numerous apprehensions and narcotic finds. His love for the job and me made that the best five years of my career. He no longer walks by my side, but he will be carried in my heart forever. I thank God for the beautiful dance.” Jerry Lee was a valuable member of the agency who will be sorely missed by his PCSO family and the Pry family as well.

 

What Others Are Saying!

 

"Congratulations to Sheriff Grady Judd, in conjunction with Tri-County Services. Jail isn't the always the answer. Programs such as Jail Alternatives to Substance Abuse (JASA) will make the positive difference.

Eighty percent or more of crimes committed are the result of citizens with mental illness, and/or substance abuse or addiction problems.
The method of treatment for those of little or no means has been to arrest the mentally ill or addicted violators, process them through our legal system at taxpayers' expense, warehouse them in jails, release them on probation back to the same environment, take away their driver licenses so that they have little means of transportation to comply with probation requirements.

With no transportation, holding a job to create income is a daily challenge. With no job, there is little money to pay for food, shelter, transportation to and from work, required programs, drug testing or probation supervision. These are basic hurdles to be overcome by those on probation in addition to their mental illness and/or addiction. Is this a positive situation to encourage one to avoid relapse?

Minor probation violations will put them back into the revolving door-system again at additional cost to taxpayers. Department of Corrections, how does this "correct" anything? Programs such as JASA, after care and facility-transition programs are a must to slow the revolving door.

The lifetime branding of "felon" makes it very difficult for addicts or the mentally ill to obtain meaningful employment for the rest of their lives. Not only are they the medicated mentally ill or recovering addicts, but they are also criminals who have little or no opportunity to have their civil rights restored. Would you hire them?

As a result of the success of JASA, supported by Sheriff Grady Judd and formed by Tri-County Services, Mell Williams, Maude Benson, Linia Holloman and their staff, they have made a remarkable positive influence on many inmates' lives, and on our communities. May the funding continue and be increased."
LORI REESE
DOUG BARK
Letter to the Editor, from The Ledger, June 27, 2006

A note from Sheriff Judd

judd

 
I am proud to tell you how hard the men and women of the Polk County Sheriff's Office have been working to keep the children in Polk County safe from sexual predators. I recently proposed a county ordinance that would further restrict where registered sexual offenders and predators can live in Polk County. There are currently 1,050 offenders and predators living in the county. Under the current laws, they have to stay 1,000 feet away from schools, day cares, public parks, playgrounds, recreational open spaces, libraries, or churches. I propose we push these pedophiles back to 2,500 feet away from those places. I want them as far away from innocent children as possible.

But enforcing where these predators live is not enough, because they can still prey upon children over the Internet. Another measure we are taking to crack down on these individuals is conducting undercover computer crimes investigations. You may have seen the television news coverage of the recent sting operation where 21 men were arrested by our detectives working with FDLE and other agencies. During a 3-day weekend, several of these detectives posed as young boys and girls on the internet. As a result, almost 2 dozen men who drove from as far away as Gainesville to have sex with who they thought were young boys and girls, are now in the Polk County Jail.

We absolutely will not tolerate anyone preying on our children. I want the community to know that we are doing all we can to protect our children. I have sent a strong message to these pedophiles that, if they come to Polk County to attack our children, we will put them in jail. In fact, they don’t even have to physically show up here – we are still following up leads on over 100 cases where adults used their computers to solicit sex from minors and to send pornographic images to children. We will be putting these pedophiles into jail as well, no matter where they live.

Thank you for all that you do to help us put criminals like these behind bars. Rest assured that we will not stop investigating crimes like these until every sexual predator is locked up.

**National statistics indicate that one in five children receive an online sexual solicitation, one in 33 have received an aggressive online sexual solicitation and one in four have been exposed to unwanted sexual images online. The shocking fact is that only 10% of those solicitations were reported to authorities.

 

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Look What's New on our Website!

In response to some wonderful feedback from citizens like yourselves, we have made a recent addition to our website called Citizen Alerts. In that section you will find information that is sent out in all "reverse 911" phone calls generated by the agency. If you've ever received one of these calls, you know that a lot of information is given out, and now there is a way for you to verify that information should you need it for future reference. Just click on our Cyber Substation (www.polksheriff.org) and scroll to the bottom of the page - you will see scrolling Citizen Alerts on the right-hand side.

Polk County Sheriff's Office Cyber Substation

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