A recent migrant landing found people from China in the Keys

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM for an update of what’s going on in Monroe County.

With Fantasy Fest underway, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department is all hands on deck. We’ve seen some traffic on the waterways with another migrant case, this time with people from China.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “We’ve been doing so good with the migrants with the partnerships with state, local, federal. It really knocked it down that we’ve been a record low lows. We were at one time at record high migration with 10 landings a day to now record lows, where we were having a landing every few weeks. But generally when we do we generally know they’re mostly coming from Cuba sometimes Haiti, but we just this morning we’re actually dealing with it now. We got a call from our friends of Customs Border Protection last night around just before 10 asking for assistance on a migration landing case. It looks to be that we think they were brought in by a powered vessel dropped off because there’s no remnants of a boat otherwise. Since last night they’ve been trying to round up these people who hit the shore running. It’s unusual because we say again they’re generally from Cuba maybe Haiti. At this time, the migrants for the most part appear to be Chinese migrants. So far, they rounded up about 17 Chinese migrants and I think three that were from Ecuador. There’s still a group of people that are at large that are believed to be hiding out in the about the 108 mile marker, which is obviously the very north end of Key Largo, in the mangrove trees, wooded lined areas. So that makes it very difficult challenging to round up people when you’re near such a dense area of foliage. This is a main operation by Customs Border Protection augmented by Sheriff’s Office, FWC, state, local officers trying to help out. But it’s very unusual and always very concerning when you see something like that with the Chinese coming into this country with everything happening these days, I think that kind of gives them more of a question about who’s coming in the country and is there any nefarious reasons? But we see mass migration more so obviously, in the southwest border, we think of migration issues, concerns, but obviously continue to see that South Florida is not exempt from these type of issues, questions, concerns,”

Language barriers in these situations make the situation even more difficult.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “They’re in a totally different country of dynamics and speech and just is hard for them, hard for us. We want to find out who they are so we know who’s in the country and they can be processed accordingly. But this is a challenging part of our job each and every day. It’s something that we just have to do.”

The Sheriff’s Youth Ranches are a valuable resource to the county and Dr. Michael Sander made a number of contributions to help.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “The Sheriff’s Youth Ranch is so amazing. We all have to work together. I’m working with a young man in the Middle Keys that needs to get some help, working with him and his family trying to get him to the Sheriff’s Youth Ranch to try to make sure we can save our youth that need help and get them back on track. But it only works because of people like Dr. Sander. It has to be funded somehow and Dr. Sander has been such a great friend to the Sheriffs Association, the sheriff’s office, me, in this case, the Youth Ranch. He’s continued to donate money over the years to the Youth Ranch.”

Dr. Sander’s latest donation has gotten his donations over the $50,000 mark.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “He did come into my office. We did have representatives from the Sheriff’s Youth Ranch come down to personally present him with an award and myself and the departments from youth services there did give him a nice award and just had great things to say about Dr. Sander, and then again, such a good friend of the citizens. He cares. He wants to do best for these kids and give them every chance to be successful. So it’s always nice to see how generous this community is, in so many different ways. This has been another way that our citizens here are doing what they can do to help others who are less fortunate and get people on the right track. So I’m just proud to call him a friend and a good partner.”

Trauma Star is another resource for the county and three new Trauma Star helicopters have been committed last week.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “I’m proud of this program. It’s a lot of work. It takes a lot of my time away, but my job is protecting life, limb and property in that order. In this case here Trauma Star is saving lives every day. There’s helicopter is probably the most critical component of this county when it comes to saving lives. We fly about 1,200 flights a year. We fly about 1,300 people out. The majority is our residents and property owners here and the other ones are tourists. It’s so critical for not only our local community to have available this service, but also people who come to visit to know this service is here should they need it. I’m just proud of this program and what we’ve done.”

Trauma Star has been around almost 22 years and began with only one helicopter. It now has three helicopters at the ready full time.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “We’re busier than the majority of the bases in the nation. This is one of the top premier bases across the nation and we’re doing stuff other programs just don’t do. We carry blood. We do transfusions in flight, and we’re carrying TPA to reverse effects of strokes right away. We fly strokes, stroke alerts and heart attacks right to Miami. We have every drug on board to administer for whatever the situation may arise. This is a super professional program, and I’m really proud to say is one of the best programs in the nation.”

The helicopters do need upgraded. The current fleet is 20 years old.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “We need to update make sure we have new, more modern aircraft that continue to be reliable. We need to make sure aircraft that we have are supported by the manufacturer. The aircraft we have now is no longer being developed. Thus, the manufacturer’s support of that helicopter is really diminished and it becomes difficult now to get parts and other stuff because the helicopter is no longer manufactured.”

The funds for the helicopters were generated by the $.01 sales tax.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “Our citizens will see no increase in taxes as a result. The money was already allocated out by the one cent infrastructure sales tax, which is in place not because of Trauma Star. It’s been in place for 30 years. That one cent, 67 percent of that might come from tourism. That money goes to build new fire stations, build new fire apparatus, in this case, buy air ambulances. So the money is restricted. It’s fund restricted what it can be used for. It’s called a 304 fund infrastructure fund and it’s designed just for that, so taxpayers don’t have to bear the burdens to build fire stations to buy a $1.2 million ladder truck or in this case buy $50 million worth of helicopters. It’s going to come out of a tax which is already pre-existing and it will not affect them.”

A man was arrested recently in Big Pine for breaking into the Keys Vineyard Church.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “This was resolved pretty quickly. Breaking into a church, we did have evidence and surveillance and we had the pastor want to press charges. The Sheriff’s Office got alerted, got on scene right away. We were able to apprehend the individual quickly on scene, detain him for investigative reasons. After the investigation, were able to pretty clearly believe that he was a suspect that broke into the church. It’s so sad to see you breaking into anything but churches, they have enough trouble these days trying to stay afloat, keep doors open, and to provide services to their citizens in the county and their congregation who need help and then people breaking in try to attack a church is always a disappointing. The men and women in the Sheriff’s Office work so hard to stop these crime waves right away, put these people in jail, hold them accountable. I’m always proud of the work that we do here at MCSO.”

A 61-year-old Marathon man was also arrested for a burglary at a business in Marathon.  

Sheriff Ramsay said, “This is the Overseas Foreign Lounge in Marathon, a really nice place, historical building. They found someone that had forced their way in, broke their way in and stole some booze. Again, we got on scene pretty quickly and good surveillance and canvassing neighborhoods and interviewing witnesses. We pretty quickly identified this 61-year-old male who was the perpetrator who broke in and stole the alcohol. We did round him up. We were able to find him, locate him, got a confession from him. Ultimately, we did arrest him for burglary and theft. It’s just good to close these cases quick. We want to send assurance to our citizens and business owners that we can get the job done and we want to stop people who are likely to continue to commit crimes and we want to send a message to people who want to commit crimes. You’re more likely to get arrested here. You’re more likely to get prosecuted here. You’re more likely to spend more time in jail here when you commit crimes because we take it very serious. Our closure clearance rates of major index crime is twice that of the state and national average.”

A man was recently arrested for threatening military aircraft.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “Whether it’s pagans making threats to my citizens, whether kids are making threats at school, whether people make threats to get my police officers, in this case here, someone making threats to shoot down a military helicopter, anybody makes a threat I’m going to take it as a serious threat, I’m going to take it serious. If you make threats, and we can build a case, we’re going to arrest you. This case here, this individual out of the Marathon area, came in to complain about the noise of the military helicopter and during the ranting and raving, made multiple threats, if that helicopter came within 1,000 feet of his house, he was going to shoot at the helicopter, shoot it down. So obviously, that’s a threat to commit bodily harm, shoot down a military aircraft and our service members. I take the stance that I’m not going to let people get away with making threats to fear, intimidate or take action upon our citizens, visitors or anybody else, police, military, I’m just not going to tolerate it. We pretty quickly thereafter arrested him for making threats to shoot down this aircraft. We continue to send the message to citizens, you say it, we’re going to believe that you’re prepared to do it and are going to back it up. If you say it, we can make it happen, you’re going to spend time in the Rick Ramsay, Double R Bed and Breakfast, my jail.

If the judicial consolidation between Monroe and Miami-Dade County would happen, things could certainly change with issues like this.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “I need to have the partnership of the state attorney and our judges to all believe in and support in what we’re doing. If we’re not on the same sheet of music, it’s a three pronged approach, then we can’t get the outcomes that we desire. So if I’m out there by myself trying to actively arrest people, but I can’t get them prosecuted or through the court systems, then we all lose. So that’s why we continue to say that the consolidation is just not good for Monroe. We’ve got a good system. We’ve got a good sheriff’s office who doesn’t take any crap. We’ve got a good state attorney who wants to prosecute people committing crimes and we’ve got judges who hold these people accountable and give good hard sentences for people who are attacking our environment or doing other related stuff. The system here is working. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. If it’s broken somewhere else, fix it there.”