As we look forward to the challenges our community faces in 2007, the events of 2006 come into sharper focus. I believe St. Lucie County and the St. Lucie County Sheriffs Office made great strides toward creating a livable and safe community. Each of these strides involved strong partnerships stretching across governmental and jurisdictional borders.
One of the most noteworthy was the local-state-federal effort that led to the arrest and conviction of the principal members of the notorious Thirteenth Street Gang who were dealing major amounts of drugs on the streets of St. Lucie County. The poison that gang members were selling found its way into homes throughout our community. By working as part of a team of law enforcement agencies, we were able to put this drug distribution network out of business and rid our streets of these gang leaders.
When I became St. Lucie County sheriff in 2001, I promised that I would work to promote harmony with other governmental leaders, including the Board of County Commissioners.
Working together with county staff, Sheriff's Office staff and the commissioners themselves, we were able to achieve a budget for the current fiscal year that is adding dozens of additional deputies to help the Sheriff's Office keep pace with our county's explosive population growth.
As we all remember, our county was the scene of the horrific execution-style murders of all four members of the Escobedo family at the roadside of Florida's Turnpike. The killings of the family's two small children made the apprehension of those responsible a top priority. Within hours, a team of law enforcement officers from our agency and numerous federal, state and local agencies went to work to find those who defiled the tranquility of our community.
The four accused Palm Beach County drug dealers now in federal custody will face trial within the next few weeks as we continue our investigation. I am confident that those responsible for the Escobedo murders are now safely behind bars.
Other noteworthy cases included: the arrest of three suspects responsible for shooting two county, residents at Pepper Park Beach on Memorial Day, when the beach was crowded with vacationers; decisive action taken by deputies in league with several other local and state agencies to evict a hostile motorcycle club from the 35,000-member crowd at the National Bikers Roundup Aug. 3 at the County Fairgrounds after one club member fired gunshots into the crowd; “Operation Safe Summer,” which harnessed multi-agency efforts that resulted in arrests of more than two dozen internet-based sexual predators; and the arrest last January of convicted sex offender Bruno Andres after he abducted the 8-year-old daughter of a female acquaintance and tried to check in to a Fort Pierce hotel room with the girl.
Those who have made our progress possible include the many fine members of this community who have supported the Sheriff's Office with leads in criminal cases, encouragement for our deputies and civilians and the determination to make St. Lucie County the safest community in the state of Florida.
The 600-plus dedicated members of your Sheriff's Office are proud to share that determination every hour of every day on the road, at the jail, in our courts, in our schools and everywhere else they are needed.
As the Sheriff’s Office increases the breadth and depth of our community Partnerships, 1 look forward to great accomplishments during 2007.