Illegal camping, undersized fish, human smuggling, fentanyl and a drunk golf cart driver were some of the citations for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department recently

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the county.

The sheriff attended the 9/11 commemoration ceremonies yesterday.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “Twenty-two years go by as time goes by. Every year there’s less services, less people showing up. But we have to do our part to be vigilant and try to keep passing the message on. We had a really nice turnout yesterday, at the service at the Key West Firehouse Museum. The service was a really nice turnout. We keep putting the message out about remembering those who lost their lives and made the ultimate sacrifice and trying to educate younger people about what took place that day and who did it and why. This is just a constant battle between education and trying to make sure that we don’t forget, because we say we’re never going to forget. But you know, when time goes by, it’s hard and we got to keep doing our part. So we did services in four parts of Monroe County and the cities are so good to have the services. I love that about this community that we do it better than most people. We’re not going to forget these tragic events here in Monroe and that’s a tribute to our public safety, police, fire and rescue putting these services on. So that was my day yesterday started off in a somber morning, but doing my part to pass on the message.”

Illegal camping came up recently near Bahia Honda – remember you can’t just pitch a tent anywhere.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “So we had a few calls from boaters who saw all the big burly tents, fires all set up, as you’re going by in the boat, it looks terrible. It’s on the south end of Bahia Honda Bridge, which is still part of the Bahia Honda park system. You’re not allowed to have fires for obvious reason. We don’t want to set the trees and forest on fire. So we went out there to find several big tents set up, people just camping out and their camp fires. They’re damaging the environmental resource. This is part of my better cleaner, safer streets initiative, too, is to clean our neighborhoods. So we did take action. We wound up citing on all seven people there for various charges of illegal fires and camping and other stuff in violation of state law. People talk about, you should be able to come down and enjoy it and just camp. Well, it’s not a designated camp area. You can’t just set fires, you can’t leave trash, you just can’t put this stuff up on the side of the road. There has to be some type of a plan. I’m not opposed to people wanting to camp for recreational stuff, but you can’t be living there and you just can’t do this stuff in park boundaries. We did that to try to protect our resources and make it look aesthetically pleasing to our visitors and citizens but also protect resources and make sure we don’t have a fire which breaks out and does more damage.”

A 21 year old man from Florida was cited for possessing undersized mangrove snappers and another gentleman had undersized snappers as well.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “As long as I’m the sheriff, I’m going to do what I can to protect our resources, help our friends at FWC. This is such a fragile environment. This is an area of critical concern for a lot of reasons. We have to be conscious. We have to make sure the resources remain here for this current generation and future generations, for our family and visitors, for our residential recreational fishermen, for our commercial fishermen. These people are coming down generally from Miami and just raping and pillaging our environment. They’re taking week after week so many of these small undersized lobster and fish. These fish fit in the palm of your hand. There’s not even a fillet to get off these fish but they’re taking them and killing them. These fish have never had a chance to reproduce. So I do have a lot of pressure on my team members to do what we can to protect our resources. We’re trying to make a difference, but we’re still only scratching the surface of how many resources are being attacked.”

Fentanyl is another concern for the county.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “My resources are being used the best we can. We’re focusing on heavy traffic enforcement which is the top complaint. This is about 11:20 at night. These two individuals from Florida City Homestead were driving around the Duck Key area. Kind of unusual late at night to be out there as it is. Not sure why they were there. But we did stop lawful traffic violation on them. Once we were out with them, a 40-year-old male and a 32-year-old female from Florida City both were found to be in possession of fentanyl, methamphetamine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia. The female had 8.8 grams, so she had enough to have trafficking level. The male had 1.8 grams. So both were charged with a criminal violation for narcotics laws, taken to jail. The car was towed. We’re going to keep doing our part to arrest these drug dealers, to get these drugs off the street, hold people accountable and keep sending a message to these drug dealers who are coming in from South Dade, this is not the place to go. If you do, you’re probably going to get arrested sooner or later. So that’s the message we want is don’t do your drug trade here. You’re going to get it.”

A migrant case came on the water recently.  

Sheriff Ramsay said, “This migrant case wasn’t a refugee boat coming over. It was actually a human smuggling venture. This human smuggling venture was coming from Cuba. They actually came to the north end of the Seven Mile Bridge. They showed up about 7:30 in the morning. At that time the sun had already come up. I think they were trying to get there while it was so dark because they had a van and a car at the bridge, at the old parking lot. They pulled up on a 20-something foot boat, there was about 25 people on board. They pulled up and started unloading by the end of the bridge.”

A lot of people walk and run in the mornings at that point.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “So people saw this boat with people just piling off, walking up the access point for the bridge and loading into a van, a van that’s designed for maybe eight, 10 people, shoved 20-something people in the van, a newer model white Ford Transit van and with it also was a newer model, red Dodge Challenger. They got in the two vehicles and started heading north and the boat started heading north on the bay side.”

Citizens called the sheriff’s department about what they saw.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “We put a BOLO out for the van and car, looking for it. A short time later we saw the boat. We stopped it for traffic violations, no tie downs, some other issues. We identified the persons on the boat. We later on found the van and the car in Key Largo. They were stopped. The van was full of illegal immigrants that were in the van. We called our friends at border patrol, ultimately they arrested three people for human smuggling. They towed the vehicles and the boat. At least they were able to identify the people who are in the country now to be processed because we’ve got to know if they come in the country, we really need to know who’s in this country. Otherwise, we would have had 20 people from foreign countries who just got out of van in Miami and walked away and then nobody ever know what their background is and who are they and are they allowed to be here, are the nefarious? Are they part of a terrorist organization? There’s so many variables why we have to know who’s here in this country. But we keep doing our part to help aid and assist when called upon by our citizens about suspicious activity, or here with our partners in law enforcement and the federal government.”

A man stole a golf cart from the Key West Golf Club recently and has been charged with DUI, larceny, vehicle theft, criminal mischief, property damage, possession of alcohol under age, in possession of a fake ID.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “This numbskull checked almost every box, right? He’s out at the Key West Golf Course, been apparently drinking very heavy out there. Got on the solo golf cart out there and then road throughout the golf course, damaging the golf course, crashing, smashing everything. Ultimately, left the property on the golf cart. He went to the Shell gas station by Key Haven, pulled up drunk, got into a verbal argument which almost turned physical with a patron. The patron could see this guy was drunk. The patron saw the golf cart had was been smashed and crashed and banged, the top was smashed down, the windshield was broken. Clearly this thing looks like it went through a hurricane. He saw bottles of open containers, empty containers all about the golf cart.”

The guy got back on the golf cart and headed north. The patron called the sheriff’s department.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “When we finally got him stopped, this guy was so drunk he could barely stand. Clearly this golf cart it was just run through the mill. We did get a fake ID from him. We found out the Key West PD were in the process of investigating a reported grand theft of a golf cart from the golf course that had been used to damage a lot of property. So we put two and two together. Both agencies talking, cooperating, communicating, we figured out okay, this is the guy they’re looking for. We charged him with the county for various charges. Then the city charged him with various other charges for stealing, damage and criminal mischief. Between both agencies he was charged with multiple crimes. This is alcohol influenced poor decisions, which are going to be the life lesson.”