Pubdate: Fri, 19 Dec 2008
Source: Florida Today (Melbourne, FL)
Copyright: 2008 Florida Today


More Funding Cuts Could Jeopardize Gains Against Violent Crime In Brevard

It's an affliction felt across Florida these days as law enforcement
confronts a surge in criminal behavior that's expected to get worse as
the recession deepens.

That could include Brevard County, where multi-agency efforts to bust
gun-toting thugs and drug warehouses have caused major crimes to drop
around the Space Coast and in some local cities.

But those hard-won gains could be jeopardized unless state lawmakers
take their blinders off and hold the line on funding for a criminal
justice system already reeling from deep budget cuts the past two years.

A system comprised of judges, prosecutors, deputies and police
officers who are now facing another 10 percent reduction because of
the state's budget crisis that has put Florida $2.3 billion in the

The previous cuts have already been having an impact along the Space

The Brevard-Seminole State Attorney's Office has lost 43 positions --
30 of them in Brevard and a dozen of those prosecutors who keep the
bad guys behind bars.

That, combined with other court reductions, increasing the case
backlog and worsening overcrowding at the Brevard County jail, raising
the chance of attacks against correction officers.

Meanwhile, the dangerous business of getting guns, gang members and
other violent criminals off the streets also could be set back if the
proposed reductions are OK'd during a special budget-cutting session
of the Legislature that starts Jan. 5.

For instance, Brevard's Gang and Violent Crime Task Force has had good
success putting what officials call "the worst of the worst" in jail,
with 185 suspects locked up since the unit's March inception.

The task force includes officers from the Brevard Sheriff's Office,
Cocoa, Melbourne, Palm Bay and Titusville police departments, Florida
Department of Law Enforcement and a prosecutor from the State
Attorney's Office, which means state funding helps keep it operating.

Cut that funding and its effectiveness would suffer with potentially
bloody consequences.

The Brevard Sheriff's Office offensive against major drug dealers also
could be hurt. Deputies have shut down more than 75 methamphetamine
labs the past three years and 48 marijuana grow houses this year. That
has led to a downturn in drug-related robberies, burglaries and
assaults, officials say.

However, fewer prosecutors and an overwhelmed judicial system could
result in some such suspects getting cut loose instead of staying
behind razor wire.

Brevard Sheriff's Lt. Mike DeMorat says officials will continue "doing
everything we can to target violent offenders" with whatever resources
are available. But he also says "now is not the time to sit back" and
it's critical deputies stay aggressive.

We couldn't agree more and know citizens feel the same

The question is whether Gov. Charlie Crist and lawmakers are listening
or whether they'll continue cutting public safety and putting all of
us at more risk.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin