As we begin a new year, it is always important to take measure of from where we have come, where we are currently, and where we want to go. Taking measure of 2015, I am extremely proud of the organizational accomplishments of your Sheriff’s Office as well as the personal achievements of our deputies and staff.
In 2015 your Sheriff’s Office achieved (CALEA) National Accreditation and ranks among the best law enforcement agencies in the state and nation. Once again your School Resource Officers have been named one of Florida’s best, achieving the National Model Agency Award for 2015.
During the past year, our office coordinated a local street crimes task force in conjunction with local municipalities in an effort dubbed “Operation Overwatch” to address street crimes through-out the county. As a result, 132 criminals were arrested on a variety of charges including drug sales, possession of firearms by convicted felons, DUI’s, and felony warrant service. We also initiated “Operation Wolf Hunter”, investigating individuals who target and lure children online into ex-tremely dangerous situations. Through those efforts we were able to identify and arrest sixteen adult sexual predators that arrived at a location to engage in sexual acts with children ages 12 to 14.
In response to elderly fraud our office also initiated an operation targeting unlicensed contrac-tors who prey upon our most vulnerable. During the course of that operation we worked in con-junction with the State Attorney’s Office, Office of Business and Professional Regulation and the Okaloosa County Building Industry Association. As a result 13 arrests were made and 18 cease and desist orders were issued, while nine violations of workers compensation were discovered. In short, unlicensed and unscrupulous contractors operating in Okaloosa County were put on notice to clean up their act.
These are just a very few examples of the accomplishments of your Sheriff’s Office in 2015 and yet we have little time to enjoy these successes as we are already preparing for the projected Spring Break challenges that are certain to come our way soon.
I do want to comment on the agency’s devastating loss in 2015 as well. The in-the-line-of-duty shooting death of OCSO Deputy Bill Myers was a horrible tragedy. Bill was not only a devoted vet-eran law enforcement officer, but a great friend to countless people inside and outside the Sheriff’s Office during his many years of service. He is greatly missed and will continue to be in our thoughts each day. The tremendous display of love and support that our community showed in light of this tragedy helped us move forward with our unwavering commitment to those we serve.
We continue to experience record numbers of calls for service and we are currently addressing a troubling trend of increased drug overdoses. In 2015 we experienced 55 drug overdoses with 19 of those resulting in death. Heroin use has skyrocketed across Florida and the U.S. and we are experi-encing the effects of that surge here in our county as well. We expect this trend to continue into 2016 and we will be prepared to meet it while saving lives. We have partnered with our county Emergency Medical Service partners, and our deputies are now training to be administers of Nar-can, a medication which can help overcome the life-threatening effects of drug overdoses until med-ical help can be obtained.
As your Sheriff, I am honored to serve alongside the men and women who combat crime in our community each day and I feel privileged to have such a wonderful place to call home. I hope you enjoy reading this year’s annual report outlining our many achievements. As an agency that has now earned dual accreditation for its effectiveness and efficiency, we stand prepared to address and overcome future challenges as we move forward.
Please take time to visit our website at www.sheriff-okaloosa.org and friend us on Facebook and Twitter for much more detailed information about your Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and the community we serve.
Larry Ashley, Sheriff