CCSO Update on Collaborative Response Graphics

Under a new initiative, deputies responding to 911 calls inside public buildings and certain businesses are now able to quickly navigate rooms, hallways, stairwells and parking areas at these locations, using a new mobile mapping technology called Collaborative Response Graphics.

The graphics are part of the Collier County Mapping Initiative, aimed at improving response times and incident command during emergencies. The initiative is funded in part through a federal grant the Collier County Sheriff’s Office received. The agency is working with veteran-run, special operations company Critical Response Group to complete the maps.

The mapping technology combines facility floor plans and high-resolution imagery to create an overlay map, detailing the locations and names of various rooms and features of each building. Having this information readily available helps deputies navigate unfamiliar structures to quickly locate callers in need.

“The CCMI creates a single common operating picture for all the first responders within the county,” Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said. “This will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of our response in multi-jurisdictional operations, special events, and emergencies at public and private infrastructure across the county.”

Maps are stored on a secure, cloud-based server and access is granted to first responders through a mobile application. The CCSO’s federal grant is covering the cost of server storage. Private businesses looking to be added to the server will have to contract for their own maps, which will then be added to the agency’s database.

Local agencies participating in the new initiative include: Naples Police Department, Marco Island Police Department, Marco Island Fire-Rescue Department, City of Naples Fire Rescue, North Collier Fire Rescue District, Greater Naples Fire Rescue District, Immokalee Fire Control District, Collier County EMS, and county representatives of the Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Collier County Government Complex and Collier County Public Schools are the first to take part in infrastructure mapping as part of this project. The first private organization to take part is Artis – Naples.

Businesses interested in participating in the initiative should contact Sgt. Neal Bohannon at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at (239) 252-0018, or by email neal.bohannon@colliersheriff.org.

 

 

 

CCSO…Collier Crime Rate Lowest Since 1971

The crime rate in Collier County in 2019 was the lowest since tracking began in 1971, Sheriff Kevin Rambosk has announced. The  crime rate of 1,402.9 represents the number of offenses reported per 100,000 people. Collier County’s population increased from 329,909 in 2018 to 338,436 in 2019.

The numbers mean that Collier County remains the safest metropolitan county in Florida, according to numbers maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Only 14 counties have a lower crime rate than Collier, and all of them are in more rural  areas of the state.

The numbers reinforce Collier County’s status as a community that is attractive to businesses, residents and visitors. “We enjoy a terrific and safe quality of life here in Collier County,” said Sheriff Rambosk. “We not only offer sunshine and beaches, we offer a safe and welcoming environment, and that is important.”

There were 4,748 Part 1 crimes in Collier County in 2019. The numbers represent crimes in unincorporated Collier County and Everglades City. They include the categories of homicide, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor  vehicle theft. Burglaries dropped from 505 in 2018 to 433 in 2019. Aggravated assaults decreased from 642 to 588.  homicides  decreased from nine to eight.

Motor vehicle thefts showed the sharpest increase, up from 215 in 2018 to 274 in 2019. The numbers follow a national trend
related to motorists leaving key fobs inside unlocked vehicles. CCSO regularly asks motorists to lock their cars, take their fob with  them and remove valuables from inside vehicles. Other categories are as follows: larcenies went from 3,042 to 3,177;  robberies went from 138 to 144; and rapes went from 109 to 124.

Sheriff Rambosk added that the agency’s crime numbers for the first four months of 2020 show a continuing downward trend
despite the fact that in addition to holding the line on crime it has been helping to protect the community from the spread of  COVID -19. Deputies have been tasked with enforcing Governor Ron DeSantis’ executive orders limiting patron numbers as well as  restrictions on commercial/business activity.

“We have had tremendous voluntary compliance with CDC recommendation and the Governor’s Executive Orders in our
community,” Sheriff Rambosk said. “This is just one more reason that Collier County is a great place to live and work.”

 

Here are some of the ways the community can help deputies drive down crime:

• Lock your car and keep valuables out of view
• Schedule a home or business security survey by a CCSO Crime Prevention specialist
• Report unusual activity to law enforcement
• Start or join a Neighborhood Watch program
• Mentor a child
• Be alert and aware of your surroundings
• Join one of CCSO’s Community Safety Teams to help address code enforcement and other problems at the neighborhood level
• Protect personal information like your Social Security number, computer passwords and banking information
• When online, don’t chat with strangers or respond to their e-mails

CCSO and DNA Lab Partner In Attempt To ID Hiker ‘Mostly Harmless’

In July 2018, two men discovered the body of a deceased hiker along a remote trail in Big Cypress National Preserve. Since then, detectives with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office have been working to identify the man known only by his trail name: Mostly Harmless.

Now, as the two-year anniversary of the case approaches, detectives have partnered with a private DNA laboratory in Texas to identify the man using a new technique in forensic genealogy and handles the process in-house. The partnership comes after detectives determined that they had exhausted DNA searches through national missing person’s databases in March of this year and following national developments in DNA privacy.

“We got the results back this year and at that point, we thought ‘what’s next?’” said Holly Cherian, a crime scene lab analyst with the agency.

That’s when the agency agreed to work alongside Othram Inc., the first private DNA laboratory built specifically with the intent of assisting law enforcement using this science. CCSO reached an agreement with Othram this month to potentially discover a relative for the hiker and close the case following widespread public interest.

Launched in 2018, Othram is a relatively new lab whose goal has been to partner with law enforcement agencies to solve cold case crimes and unidentified persons cases. Unlike other commercial testing sites offered to the public for family tree tracing, Othram solicits DNA from members of the public who are also hoping to help solve criminal cases with their personal information, through its database DNASolves.com

“A lot of people are very interested in trying to help,” said Othram CEO Dr. David Mittelman. “It’s something of humanitarian value.”

Since 2018, the uncharted landscape of forensic genealogy has also become a bit clearer, paving the way for Othram to offer its services to law enforcement who were otherwise finding it difficult to work with commercial testing sites whose priority was the privacy of their customers.

The Golden State Killer case in California, made famous again after forensic genealogy led to a suspect who has since been convicted, also laid a foundation for approved methods law enforcement can use when considering forensic genealogy. As a result, members of the public submitting their DNA from places like Ancestry.com or 23andMe, can choose to opt into helping law enforcement when they upload their results to the third-party databases such as GEDMatch or DNASolves.com.

CCSO detectives first sent samples of Mostly Harmless’ DNA to the University of North Texas. Then in March of this year, after DNA was extracted and compared to national databases of missing persons, it was determined after several searches that there were no hits, meaning no one had reported Mostly Harmless missing and uploaded his information to these databases. Cherian said the next step would have been to send a sample of the hiker’s DNA to a lab in Florida for forensic genealogy testing when Othram offered to use a new technique at no charge to the agency.

Mittelman said it will take about 12 weeks to sequence Mostly Harmless’ DNA – a process much different than that done by the University of North Texas – before a genealogist will use the sequence to build out a family tree using a public database.

Mittelman said the process of mapping a family tree can take days, weeks or months to produce a possible, distant relative.

“Then, we’ll have an investigative lead at that point,” Cherian said.

 

 

Sheriff Rambosk Honored for Crash Reduction Program

Sheriff Kevin Rambosk is shown here with his award flanked by FSRMF Executive
Director Don Eslinger, right, and FSRMF Board of Managers Chairman and St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara, left.

The Florida Sheriff ’s Association has honored Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk for his effort and success in reducing traffic crashes involving deputies. Sheriff Rambosk received the Florida Sheriffs Risk Management Fund Leadership Award during the FSA winter  conference in Tampa. Sheriff Rambosk is a member of the Florida Sheriffs Risk Management (FSRMF) Board of Managers.

Crashes involving CCSO deputies were down 28 percent overall in 2019 compared to 2018. At-fault, or avoidable, crashes were down 43 percent over the same period. “At the end of 2018, I recognized a substantial increase in traffic crashes in our agency compared to other sheriff ’s offices around Florida,” Sheriff Rambosk said. “I tasked our Training Bureau and Traffic Accident Review Board with implementing a plan to reduce crashes which resulted the creation of our new Driver Refresher Program.”

The training, which is ongoing, is required for all of the agency’s sworn law enforcement officers. It consists of driver training once a month with two three hour classes each day
with 15 members attending each class. The initiative has had a significant impact on reducing crashes at CCSO. The classes follow the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission driving standard courses.

An emphasis is placed on basic driving principles like proper hand position, proper backing  position, and proper braking and turning through repetition and hands-on
instruction. The classes are taught by trained CCSO instructors. Their dedication and understanding of the mission directly contributed to the reduction in crashes.

To Gift or Not to Gift by Christopher G. Price, Esquire

Increased Exemption Amounts Provide Window of Opportunity Before Sunset

Christopher G. Price, Esq.

As part of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, the estate and gift tax exemption amount increased from $5M to $10M per taxpayer.  This exemption amount is indexed for inflation each year. In November, the IRS announced the 2020 inflation adjusted estate and gift tax exemption amount. For 2020, the exemption amount increased from $11.4M to $11.58M per person, or $23.16 for married couples. This means that an individual may give up to $11.58M to non-spouse/ noncharity  beneficiaries free of estate and gift tax. This limit combines both lifetime and testamentary gifts.

As part of the 2017 legislation, the increased exemption amount will last through the end of 2025. If Congress does not change  or amend the tax laws before then, the exemption amount will revert to $5M (plus inflation adjustments) on January 1, 2026. This reversion to the lower exemption amount is often referred to as the sunset.

Pending Legislation
A variety of legislation has been proposed in both the House and Senate that, depending on the political climate, will greatly
impact estate planning. One bill introduced in the Senate completely repeals the estate tax. Another bill introduced in the
House reduces the exemption amount from $10M to $3.5M and increases the top rate to 77%.

It is also important to note that Florida law does not currently subject assets located in Florida to state estate tax. However,
if you own assets in a state that still maintains a state estate or inheritance tax, you should ensure that your estate plan
accommodates this possibility. Often, the exemption amounts for state estate tax are lower than the federal exemption amount.
Because of uncertainty under current law with the sunset and how the tax laws may change, making transfers now to take
advantage of the increased exemption amount are receiving increased attention.

Action Required
As we approach the sunset, it is important to assess your estate plan and determine whether your estate will be subject to estate tax now or after the sunset. If your estate might be subject to estate tax, it is prudent to meet with your legal, tax, and financial advisors now to review strategies to reduce imposition of potential estate tax and take advance of the increased exemption amount through gifts. Various gift and estate planning strategies are available to help reduce your potential tax exposure and your team of advisors should be working to ensure that an appropriate strategy is deployed if needed.

While 2025 may seem to be far away, it is important to keep up to date with changes to the tax laws and how they will affect your estate plan in the meantime. Between now and the sunset, we will have had two Presidential elections, and every two years the composition of the Senate and House has the potential to shift.

About the Author
Christopher G. Price is a Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning lawyer at Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, P.A. He assists
clients by developing their estate plan, including drafting wills, revocable and irrevocable trusts, powers of attorney, living wills and health care surrogates, and advises clients on estate tax and gift tax minimization strategies. Chris’ estates practice includes estate planning, estate and trust administration, estate tax planning, and selective estate and trust litigation.
Christopher may be reached at 239-344-1183 or by email at christopher.price@henlaw.com

The CCSO tells us that the Calendar Drive Was a Success!

The Collier County Sheriff ’s Office couldn’t have planned it any better. The Sheriff ’s Office’s “Planning for Success” drive was a huge success, thanks to community members who responded to the agency’s request for donations of new 2020 calendars and day planners. The drive was so successful CCSO plans to make it an annual event.

Sheriff Kevin Rambosk recently presented more than 600 calendars and appointment books that were collected to Collier County Judge Janeice Martin at Collier County Sheriff ’s Office Headquarters. “This is a terrific example that illustrates what can be accomplished when a community joins together,” Sheriff Rambosk said. “Thanks to the generosity of everyone who contributed to this effort the recipients of these calendars will have an important tool to help them succeed.”

The appointment books will be provided to individuals going through Drug Court, Mental Health Court or Veterans Court in Collier County. The goal of these programs is to help qualifying nonviolent offenders reintegrate into the community by completing  probation. Judge Martin presides over all of the treatment courts in addition to her regular caseload.

Attending treatment court requires participants to go through a rigorous schedule of multiple mandatory court appearances
as well as attend regular group and individual therapy sessions. Missing a court date or other mandatory appearance can mean
the participant fails the program. A day planner or calendar can be the best tool to help program participants complete probation and rebuild their lives.

Judge Martin expressed her gratitude and called the community’s generosity a “very powerful gesture.” “Too often, mental illness and addiction cause our clients to feel isolated and totally cutoff from the community,” Judge Martin said. “They show tremendous courage when they step forward to accept our help, and to attempt the hard work necessary to overcome their  challenges, and achieve a lasting recovery.

What you have done with these calendars is to let them know they are a part of a community that cares, that they matter, and that they can succeed in their goals in recovery.“ Donors were invited to jot down an inspirational message on the planner or calendar for the recipient to read. One message read, “Dear friend, please accept this planner as a token in confidence that whatever journey you are on, you will arrive at your destination stronger than when you began.” Another message of support written was, “The key to success is to focus on goals, not obstacles.”

Military Vets and the CCSO – First their Country now their County

For as long as he can remember, Lt. Gary Martin wanted a career in law enforcement. He joined the Air Force right after high school. After six years as a military police officer in North Dakota, where his duties involved the security and transportation of nuclear warheads and missiles, he took a job with his hometown sheriff ’s office in Indiana. It seemed to him like a natural transition. The path ultimately led him to the Collier County Sheriff ’s Office in 2001

After 21 years in the Navy, CCSO Special Details Coordinator Edyth Bird says a second career with a law enforcement agency was never on her radar. She returned to Naples following her retirement and was encouraged to seek employment at CCSO by current members at the time. “Seventeen years later, it was the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Bird, who joined the CCSO in 2002.

Like Lt. Martin and Coordinator Bird, veterans come from various military occupations that all bring unique value to the mission of the Collier County Sheriff ’s Office, which includes service to the community by investigating crimes, running an emergency communications center, operating the Naples Jail Center and managing courthouse security. “You’ve dealt with a paramilitary structure, so you understand
how that works,” Lt. Martin said. “Military people are problem-solvers whether it’s in combat, replacing or repairing jet engines. They are constantly solving problems on the fly. And that’s what we do in law enforcement. We go out and stand in people’s living rooms and they tell us a problem and we have to figure out how to fix it without asking anyone to help us.”

Nearly 30 percent of the agency’s current workforce are military veterans. CCSO offers veterans preference while vetting job candidates.
“We are extremely proud to have 291 military veterans working for the Collier County Sheriff’s Office,” said Sheriff Kevin Rambosk.
To honor the military service of agency members, Sheriff Rambosk created the CCSO Military Service Award. The award is presented to agency members who have served in the United States military and have been honorably discharged upon completion of their service as recognized by a DD214 form.

The Sheriff unveiled the award on November 11, Veterans Day. “Although the debt to the heroic men and women that have meritoriously  served our country can never be repaid, I have authorized the creation of this award as a way for the agency to express our undying gratitude and to recognize our veteran members for the sacrifices that they have made for our country and continue to make to our community,” Sheriff Rambosk said.

Lt. Martin returned to the Air Force in 2004 following the tragic events of September 11, 2001. He retired as a master sergeant, serving a total of 22 years. He is currently assigned to Patrol as the Golden Gate commander. “The military made me the kind of by-the-book, very
regimented person that I am,” he said. “If you do something wrong, it’s dangerous to everyone. Any time you are dealing with nuclear
warheads and the security of them, everything is by the book, by the numbers. Everything has a place. You don’t cut any corners.”

Coordinator Bird served in the Navy from 1981 to 2002, primarily as a western Pacific sailor, doing tours in California, Guam, Japan and Texas. She retired as a Chief Aerographer’s Mate (aviation warfare). Much of her career was spent collecting, recording and analyzing meteorological and oceanographic data. She prepared weather maps, issued weather forecasts and warnings, and conducted weather  briefings. She served as typhoon duty forecaster and chief petty officer in charge of a weather detachment. She has put her military
meteorological skills to good use at the CCSO. “Graphics, charts and briefing packets are a large part of any good weather forecast and I have been able to incorporate those skills into a myriad of areas at CCSO,” she said.

When the weather turns bad and everyone stays home, Coordinator Bird heads to the office. “That is just a normal day as a weather forecaster and boy, did that lifestyle follow me into a civilian career with CCSO,” she said. “As a part of the Emergency Management Team and housed in the Command Center during hurricane activation, we have all packed our bags to ride out the storm.” While stationed at the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (FNMOC) in Monterey, California, one of her jobs was to prepare the tropical weather forecast advisory and storm tracks.

One of her functions on the CCSO Emergency Management Team is take the current warnings and forecast discussion and disseminate that information to members for both personal and operational planning. “The most difficult part is trying not to speak “Navy AG” and use civilian terminology,” she said.

GET SCHOOLED ON TEXTING AND DRIVING

If you’re driving through a school zone on your way to work or on your way to drop your child off to class, be sure to put your phone down. Deputies are warning drivers of a new law that took full effect January 1st, banning the use of handheld devices while driving in school and work zones throughout Florida.

In May, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law allowing  deputies to ticket drivers for texting while driving. The law went into effect July 1st and deputies at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office immediately began enforcing it, conducting details targeting the behavior and handing out citations.

The second part of the new bill went into effect October 1st. Florida State Statute 316.306 prohibits handling of any
communication devices while in a work or school zone. That includes texting while driving and holding the phone while talking. This part of the law only pertains to the stretches of designated construction zones and school zones while those zones are in effect. Citations for this infraction are more costly than those issued for texting while driving outside of a school or work zone.

Our deputies began warning motorists of this change beginning October 1st. Deputies began issuing full citations as of January 1, 2020. During the agency’s first detail warning motorists of the new law, deputies conducted 30 traffic stops and issued a total of 10 warnings for use of a phone in a school zone. Three deputies patrolled the Poinciana Elementary school zone as parents and buses dropped students off during the one day detail. In addition to 10 warnings regarding the new law, deputies also issued three citations for failing to use a seatbelt and one citation for a suspended driver’s license.

That was the first of many the Safety & Traffic Enforcement Bureau conducted in the weeks leading up to
January 1st. Under the original texting and driving law, which went into effect July 1, drivers can still use their phones for calls and for navigation purposes outside of a school zone. They’re also able to read emergency messages such as Amber Alerts and severe weather alerts. Before July 1, 2019, texting while driving was considered a
secondary offense, meaning you couldn’t be pulled over for that infraction alone.

Instead, if a deputy pulled you over for a primary offense such as speeding or running a stop sign, you could also be
cited for texting while driving on top of the initial infraction. Now, texting and driving has become a primary offense and motorists can be stopped for using their phones while operating a vehicle, even if they aren’t speeding or breaking other rules of the road. The one exception is that motorists will still be allowed to use their phones while their vehicle is stopped at traffic lights.

If it is a non-emergency, contact the Collier County Sheriff ’s Office non-emergency line at 239-252-9300. If it could be a crime in progress, call 911. If you have information on past occurred crimes or people who are involved in criminal activity, call the CCSO TIPS line at 239-775-8477, or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a possible reward call Crime Stoppers at 800-780-TIPS. You can also email CCSO at TIPS@colliersheriff.org

CCSO’s Sgt. Williams Honored For Fight Against Human Trafficking

Collier County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Wade Williams accepts the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody at the 2019 annual Human Trafficking Summit in Orlando on September 30

Collier County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Wade Williams has been honored by the Florida Attorney General’s Office for his work in the fight against human trafficking.  State Attorney General Ashley Moody presented Sgt. Williams with the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award at the 2019 Human Trafficking Summit in Orlando on September 30. The award honors Floridians who took extraordinary measures to combat human trafficking.

Sheriff Kevin Rambosk praised Sgt. Williams for his hard work toward abolishing human trafficking and to helping provide aid to victims. “Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that affects Collier County,”  Sheriff Rambosk said. “Sgt. Williams has worked tirelessly with our state and local partners for victims and our community to combat this evil. This honor is well deserved.”

Linda Oberhaus, chief executive officer of The Shelter For Abused Women & Children, nominated Sgt. Williams, who supervises the sheriff’s Human Trafficking Unit, for the award. She noted in her
nomination letter that since 2014, CCSO has initiated 98 human trafficking investigations, making 20 arrests and identifying 69 probable victims. Of those victims, 18 were juveniles. “Sgt. Williams makes a significant impact on the issues and challenges of human trafficking in Collier County through high-quality criminal investigations as demonstrated in the results of his case work, and by his sincere  commitment to educating the public,” Oberhaus wrote.

Sgt. Williams said the award is the result of teamwork. “It’s the hard work of the members of the Human Trafficking Unit, other members of CCSO who work closely with our Human Trafficking Unit and our partnerships with organizations in the community like the Shelter for Abused Women & Children that resulted in this shared accomplishment,” he said. Sgt. Williams played an integral role in Operation Human Freedom in 2015. The multiagency investigation revealed a human trafficking
network involving multiple victims operating from Central to South Florida and resulted in 17 arrests.

He also played key roles in other major investigations that ultimately led to arrests and convictions, including:

– Gary Cherelus of East Naples who was convicted of sex trafficking women and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2016
– Gregory Hines and Keith Lewis, who were sentenced earlier this year to 15 years and eight years in prison, respectively, in connection with a human trafficking case involving at least four women.

Sgt. Williams continues to lead ongoing investigations of major significance. He has further demonstrated his commitment to the community through his many presentations on human trafficking. He frequently conducts anti-human trafficking training for law enforcement officers and service providers. “He is sincerely motivated to educate and engage the public about the overwhelming statistics of human trafficking,” Oberhaus wrote in her nomination letter, noting that his presentations are so well received that they often lead to extended question and answer periods.
Sgt. Williams joined the Collier County Sheriff’s Office in September 2004 as a road patrol deputy.

In 2008 he transferred to the Criminal Investigations Division as a detective in the General Crimes
Bureau, where he was responsible for investigating felony crimes such as robbery, burglary and other violent crime. He was promoted in 2013 to the rank of sergeant and made the supervisor of the Special Crimes Bureau-Exploitation Section. He remains in charge of the Exploitation Section, where he is responsible for managing a team of specially trained detectives and civilians comprised of four units: the Sex Offender Unit, the Missing Persons Unit, the Human Trafficking Unit and the Internet Exploitation Unit.

He is responsible for supervising the Southwest Florida Human Trafficking Task Force for Collier County and is a member of the Florida Gulf Coast University Human Trafficking Advisory Council.

The Attorney General’s Office hosted the human trafficking summit, along with the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, the Florida Department of Children and Families, and the University of Central Florida