Monroe County Sheriff’s Office faces a whole lot of challenges every day

With the Juneteenth celebrations over the weekend in the Keys, law enforcement had to be on their toes, but most of the incidents didn’t involve the holiday specifically.

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5 FM this morning to give an update on issues facing the county.

One case involved a 24-year-old from Palm Beach County traveling at a high rate of speed on Friday. The car had been reported stolen and the men and women in the Monroe County Sheriff’s office were on alert for the vehicle.

The car was discovered in north Marathon. It turned into a high-speed pursuit.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “The speeds got so high and the driver was driving so recklessly, we decided to break off the pursuit to try to protect the general public. These are always difficult times to decide to pursue or not pursue or when to break off the pursuit.”

Units were notified in the south end of Islamorada and the pursuit was engaged a number of times.

Finally, the vehicle was stopped in the south part of Key Largo by stinger spikes, which basically deflate the tires and create the inability to flee.

The male driver was arrested and charged with grand theft auto, felony fleeing and alluding police and other traffic-related charges.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “We were happy to get him off the road. No one got hurt. No crashes as a result and we were able to get the stolen car back to the owner.”

Traffic is the top complaint the Sheriff’s Office hears.

Another reckless driver resulted in numerous hit and run incidents that actually began last night. Calls about a reckless truck driver, passing on the right, passing on the shoulders and running cars off the road came into the Sheriff’s office. The suspect also was involved in a number of hit and run incidents.

The truck was spotted this morning in Islamorada and again turned into a high-speed pursuit. It took two sets of stinger spikes to stop the truck.

The male driver from Miami-Dade County was arrested with multiple charges and his truck was towed.

A hit-and-run fatality from March resulted in the perpetrator being locked in Monroe County jail.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “This is a terrible, sad case.”

A son was home from college visiting the family. He and his father took a bicycle ride and a woman in an SUV lost control of her vehicle and hit the son, killing him almost immediately and injuring the father.

The scene was held for several hours for a traffic homicide investigation.

Sheriff Ramsay explained, “In a case like this where someone dies or is likely to die, it’s not uncommon to take a blood draw. Ultimately the screening came back showing this female driver had several controlled substances in her system, prescription pharmaceuticals which would impair her driving.”

She was charged with DUI and manslaughter and is awaiting her trial.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “It just goes to show the sad things that happen on a highway, but especially when motorists are impaired with alcohol and/or drugs. This is a young man, had his whole life ahead of him, cut short for nothing. A sad, sad case. We’re glad to hold somebody accountable.”

A whole lot of drugs were confiscated from a 33-year-old from Miami-Dade County, including cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines. Erick Ramos also had prescriptions drugs without a prescription.

It began with a boat trailer that didn’t have a license plate and lead to the arrest.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “People that commit crimes almost the majority of time need a car to get from point A to point B, whether it be drugs or anything else, so as we do our traffic, we encourage our officers to focus on potential illicit packages in the car, drugs that may be in the car or signs or smells of drugs. Almost all these drug cases emulate from a simple traffic stop. We always wonder how stupid can you be? You’ve got a car full of dope and you’re driving like an idiot.”

Routine traffic stops can often turn into something completely different.

Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM pointed out, “Your deputies and staff put themselves on the line every day and we appreciate that.”

The two most dangerous parts of the job are traffic stops and domestic violence calls.

In addition to daily law enforcement, Sheriff Ramsay also has to consider the budget. While the inflationary economy is affecting everyone, it’s important to remember it also affects local law enforcement.

There are about 250 cars and three large air helicopters in the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, which use a lot of fuel.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “We are struggling.”

The department may be looking at purchasing freezes in the future.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “There’s a balance act. We did not budget for $5.10 a gallon fuel. This year there will be a substantial increase in my budget request for fuel. Probably I think it’s about a $550,000 increase, just for the increase in fuel, which I can’t control. This comes down to fiscal management. It’s a constant, constant look into the budget and changing, adapting, slowing down, not buying, transferring funds from one budget to another budget. It’s a full time project and that’s part of my job to make sure we don’t overspend our budget and make sure we somehow get the job done.”

Stapleford said, “We commend you on a job well done.”

Additionally, electrical costs are on the rise.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “We have 500 inmates. I’ve got to feed them. I’ve got to provide medical services. We’re going to see an increase in food services. We’re going to see in an increase in our medical contracts. All their costs have gone up. Almost every part of the Sheriff’s Office, somehow we’re going to see a pass on with inflation. Inflation I think is 8.6% and we’re going to see that across the board in almost everything we do. This is going to be a very difficult year I think for the Board of County Commission because they’re going to see these increase requests across the board on all the budgets because everyone’s budgets have gone up and we just can’t control it. I cannot control inflation. I don’t want to have to increase my budget, but there’s no way to operate an operation this big, this scale, with last year’s financials.”

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