By Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw
As we enter 2012 in Palm Beach County, I want to wish everyone good health, happiness and prosperity. At the sheriff’s office, we will continue meeting the public safety requirements for our large and complex county. Despite the tough economic conditions, rest assured that we are addressing new and ongoing law enforcement and corrections issues with innovative and successful approaches.
With hundreds of associated county deaths in recent years from drug overdoses, eliminating the prescription drug black market has remained a top priority. My investigators, along with our partners, have shut down many illegal “pill mills,” and we are going to make sure the rogue doctors and pharmacists are punished. We will also be working with groups like the NOPE Task Force to educate youth and their parents about the dangers of abusing drugs.
Other priorities for 2012 will focus on our continued effort to dismantle gangs and return many neighborhoods back to their residents. We have taken down six of the top 10 most ruthless gangs in the county in the past four years, resulting in a 25 percent drop in violent crime and a 50 percent reduction in gang-related homicides.
But the economy being the way it is, our resources have been stretched in handling white-collar crime, homelessness and abandoned-home issues. Still, we’ve been able to keep our law enforcement and corrections staffing intact to tackle these challenges. That’s partially the result of our hardworking civilian volunteers who log more than 350,000 hours every year. They enable my deputies to concentrate on being in communities, investigating crime and working on solutions to keep our streets safer.
This year, I am also going to keep advancing our local homeland security initiatives, including the state-of-the-art epicenter to oversee any security and emergency operations. As chairman of a domestic and homeland security task force for the entire region from Martin to Monroe counties, I am in a position to gain new equipment and staffing in combating the threat of terrorism and handling major emergencies in our area, including Palm Beach County.
Taking on all these important initiatives and responsibilities takes resources, of course. So yet another goal of mine is to better educate the community on what we do at the sheriff’s office and why our services cannot be subjectively reduced, such as closing a recreational facility or reducing library hours. Local taxpayers need to understand that the economic downturn has put additional conditions on law enforcement. Demand for public safety services, for instance, has gone up because of population growth in Palm Beach County over the past decade.
No matter what, our mission in 2012, just like in past years, is to safeguard the lives and property of the people we serve, to reduce crime and to enhance public safety while working with our diverse populations to improve their quality of life.
We’re looking forward to a great year at the sheriff’s office. I wish the same to all of you.