As a third generation native of Lee County who has spent more than half of my life fighting crime, I care deeply about the continued well being of my many family members and friends as well as the constituents I serve. Elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2008, I have presided over the Sheriff's Office during the very best and the very worst economic conditions. Record growth during the boom strained public safety and presented significant challenges recruiting and retaining Deputies for road patrol and jail operations. In more recent years, that challenge morphed into one of trying to avoid furloughs, layoffs, and pay cuts for those very same employees we worked so hard to add to our ranks. Doing more with less quickly became a reality for most components of government, including law enforcement.
Make no mistake about it, the very first order of business for any unit of government, be it Federal, State, or Local is the safety and security of the citizens. These three (3) tiers of government are responsible for different jurisdictions and this is a point I am often asked about when speaking publically. Since many in Lee County are originally from other states, they and our many visitors are typically interested in knowing the difference between City Police Departments and the County Sheriff's Office. In short, my office has countywide jurisdiction for law enforcement; however, large police agencies like Cape and Fort Myers have primary responsibility for their municipalities.
Recently, the City of Fort Myers has experienced an alarming spike in murders. In virtually every instance, these have been black on black crimes wherein the victims were targeted for narcotics activity. These homicides are not random and are all occurring within the jurisdiction of the Fort Myers Police Department. I have pledged my continued support to Chief Baker and stand ready to assist him as he requests; however, the structure of our governments works best when agency heads defer to their counterparts whether city, state, or federal.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is a state agency and among other things is responsible for the collection and maintenance of crime data. Statistics are broken down by jurisdictions I previously outlined and in unincorporated Lee County the crime rate has fallen each year since 2008. As we approach the halfway point of this year, I am proud to report that crimes occurring in the County are down sharply. Through May 31st, the total number of crimes is 381 less than at the same time last year representing an 8.4% decrease. Violent crime is also down as we approach the halfway mark for 2012.
While even one (1) crime is too many, the reality is that Lee County and the major cities inside it have grown dramatically and as with any large community, there will always be a minority of people who are simply unable or unwilling to abide by the law. My office works very closely with the Cape and Fort Myers Police Departments and will continue to do so for the betterment of all of Lee County. Still, each agency by design bears the primary burden for curtailing crime and it is a disservice to commingle jurisdictions and responsibilities in an effort to politicize crime trends or attempt to confuse the citizens for personal gain. At the same time the crime rates have fallen steadily in the County over the last four and a half (4-1/2) years, I am proud to report that I have also reduced the Sheriff's Office budget by $21.5 million dollars.
Like the Police Chiefs, my dedicated staff and I remain proud to serve and focused on the mission. I am committed to an aggressive, sustained attack on crime, and I invite you to visit our website at www.sheriffleefl.org for interactive access to criminal activity, arrest records, and sex offender registrations among other things. As always, I implore the community to get involved in neighborhood watch programs and report suspicious activity to my office or the City Police depending on which jurisdiction you are in.
Lee County Sheriff
Mike Scott, a two-term incumbent,
is seeking reelection for Lee County Sheriff. He is a Republican candidate whose name will appear on the Aug. 14 primary ballot.