Pasco sweep nabs wayward felons
DADE CITY - A process that literally takes minutes landed 20 people on the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office’s radar. More than a dozen members of the sheriff’s office and Dade City Police Department joined forces to conduct a warrant sweep Wednesday in Dade City. The goal of the operation, dubbed Clean Streets Enforcement Plan, was to track down 20 convicted felons who had not registered with the sheriff’s office. Pam Johnson was one of those nabbed in the sweep. Just before she took a seat in the back of Deputy Ryan Oakley’s cruiser at the Oakcrest Apartment complex, she told a neighbor: “I forgot to register as a convicted felon.”She was convicted of grand theft in 2009 and sentenced to 10 years probation, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. The sheriff’s office did not release information on the number of people arrested Wednesday. Under state law, a felon released from parole has 48 hours to register with the sheriff’s office, a process that involves having fingerprints and a photo taken. Sheriff’s Detective Jim Prack said he isn’t surprised felons aren’t taking the time to register. “The lifestyle that they live; they’re there because they don’t follow the rules,” Prack said. “I’m not sure how many people actually successfully make it through probation without violating, but it appears to be somewhat low. And that’s just simple stuff like staying at home during curfew hours.” The sheriff’s office designates certain areas of the county as STAR regions, Strategic Targeted Area of Response. These areas contain the highest concentration of crime. The sheriff’s office uses data to determine areas with elevated crime levels. In these areas, “prolific” offenders are watched closely. The program, which Prack helped create, has been in place since January. Law enforcement members have conduced similar warrant sweeps this year in Zephyrhills on two occasions and in Land O’ Lakes. Though specific numbers were not available Wednesday, authorities said crime in the STAR area in Zephyrhills has plummeted since the sweeps. “Once we started locking people up, crime started dipping,” Capt. Jack Armstrong said. “That and hitting the second-hand dealers and the pawn shops to see who’s pawning, that worked in Zephyrhills. The crime in that particular STAR area, which is a (10-square-mile area), dropped significantly.” Authorities say they try to make the registration process as easy as possible. When a felon is paroled, the felon signs paperwork promising to register in the allotted time frame, Prack said. They are then given directions and free bus tickets to get to the sheriff’s New Port Richey office to register. “After the first (warrant sweep), they started verbally telling the probationers, ‘You better get registered. The sheriff’s office is starting to arrest people now,’” Prack said. “And they still haven’t (registered).”
Video: Food Network star Alton Brown tries Tampa's cuban sandwiches, says they weren't 'what I expected'