School Safety

The Citrus County Commission, Sheriff and School District have begun talks about how to fund state-mandated school safety officers

The Citrus County Commission, Sheriff and School District have begun talks about how to fund state-mandated school safety officers for every school, not only in the county, but statewide. It’s not going to be cheap for struggling counties (March 27, 2018)

 

FWC provides tips for living with alligators

Florida has a healthy and stable alligator population, which is estimated at 1.3 million alligators of every size.

FWC photo

The American alligator is a conservation success story.

Florida has a healthy and stable alligator population, which is estimated at 1.3 million alligators of every size.

They are an important part of Florida’s wetlands, but should be regarded with caution and respect.

Alligators become more active and visible during spring when temperatures rise and their metabolism increases. Although serious injuries caused by alligators are rare in Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recommends taking precautions when having fun in and around the water. 

Alligators inhabit all 67 counties in Florida and can be found anywhere there is standing water. Reduce the chances of conflicts with alligators by swimming only in designated swimming areas during daylight hours. Also keep pets on a leash and away from the water.

Because alligators control their body temperature by basking in the sun, they may be easily observed. However, the FWC urges people to keep their distance if they see one. And never feed alligators because it is dangerous and illegal.

The FWC places the highest priority on public safety and administers a Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program to address complaints concerning specific alligators. People concerned about an alligator should call the FWC’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (392-4286). SNAP uses contracted nuisance alligator trappers throughout the state to remove alligators 4 feet in length or greater that are believed to pose a threat to people, pets or property. The FWC also works diligently to keep Floridians and visitors informed, including providing advice about Living with Alligators.

Learn more about alligators at MyFWC.com/Alligator.

FWC infographic (Click for larger image)

Search warrant shuts down drug lab near school

A search warrant on March 23 at a home near a school in Crystal River revealed the home was being used to grow marijuana inside, deputies said.

Michael Caputo, 33 of Crystal River

Detectives with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office on March 23 served a search warrant at 1126 NE 7th Avenue in Crystal River and found the home was being used as a marijuana grow house inside.

After several weeks of investigation, members of the Tactical Impact Unit learned the residence was used to grow marijuana and to manufacture THC extract. Inside, detectives located 3 rooms converted to grow marijuana.

These rooms were outfitted with lights, pots, and watering systems. A total of 44 plants were seized as a result of this operation.

In a scene resembling a “Breaking Bad” meth lab, detectives located several glass beakers, stills, and other items used to extract the THC from the marijuana plant. These extracts are often referred to as “Dab” or “Wax”, which is a concentrated form of the active and illegal ingredient in marijuana. These substances can have an extremely high potency and can lead to a more intense “high”.

The homeowner, Michael Caputo, 33, of Crystal River, was arrested on various charges related to the grow and extraction lab. In all, detectives located 340 grams of THC liquid, 48 grams of THC Wax, 44 plants, and 318 grams of dried marijuana.

“This was not just your average marijuana bust,” stated Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “This was a highly sophisticated and elaborate lab with a high risk for a potential explosion. The chemicals that were being used were highly flammable. Not to mention this home was extremely close to Crystal River High School, which posed a serious threat to students.”

Charges:

Michael Caputo 2/22/85 – Cultivation of cannabis, manufacturing cannabis extract within 1,000 feet of a school, possession of cannabis extract with intent to distribute, and possession of paraphernalia.

Sheriff’s Office investigating death off SR 44 East

Citrus County Sheriff’s Office deputies were on scene at about 2 p.m. on Wednesday of a death on State Road 33 East, across the street from Seven Rivers Presbyterian School.

A motorist noticed a body lying on the sidewalk and called authorities on March 21. The victim was 70 years old. (March 21, 2018)

Citrus County Sheriff’s Office deputies were on scene at about 2 p.m. on Wednesday of a death on State Road 44 East, across the street from Seven Rivers Presbyterian School.

A motorist noticed the body lying on the sidewalk and called authorities.

Detectives say they believe a man, approximately 70 years old, was walking on the sidewalk and had a medical issue and died.

The Sheriff’s Office said that, at present, the death does not appear to be suspicious. Meanwhile Sheriff’s Office Investigators are working to identify the man and notify next of kin.

 

No explosives found after Spring Hill bomb scare

Bomb squads on Wednesday from Citrus County and Hernando County were called out to a report of a suspicious package at a bus stop in Spring Hill.

Stock image. PHOTO BY: Robby Douglas.

Bomb squads on Wednesday from Citrus County and Hernando County were called out to a report of a suspicious package at a bus stop in Spring Hill.

No explosives were found when a bomb squad responded to a shopping center in Spring Hill Wednesday.

Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis told reporters that at about 8 a.m. today called 911 after seeing a suspicious package near a bus stop and the Twistee Treat ice cream shop at the Mariner Square Shopping Center, at Cortez Boulevard/SR 50 and Mariner Boulevard.

The Citrus County bomb squad x-rayed the package before using a water cannon to blow it up,

Investigators say they are still working to figure out what was inside the package.

Search warrant yields six arrests in Hernando

The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) served a search warrant on Monday at 1119 East McKinley Street in Hernando.

The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) served a search warrant on Monday at 1119 East McKinley Street in Hernando.

As a result, six people were placed under arrest on charges ranging from grand theft to possession of drugs and paraphernalia:

  • Michael Northcut – organized fraud, uttering (12 counts); Grand Theft $300-$5000 (9 Counts); Grand Theft $5000-$10000 (2 Counts); Forgery (2 Counts)
  • Joseph Vickers – Possession of Firearm by Convicted Felon; Tampering with Evidence; Possession of Controlled Substance (Cocaine); Possession of Controlled Substance (Oxycodone); Possession of Paraphernalia
  • Dwanna Bunch – Possession of Controlled Substance (Cocaine); Possession of Controlled Substance (Oxycodone); Possession of Paraphernalia
  • Duwan Scott – Possession of Controlled Substance (Cocaine); Possession of Motor Vehicle with Altered VIN; Possession of Paraphernalia
  • Lataesha Vickers – Possession of Marijuana Under 20 grams
  • Jerome Bunch – Possession of Marijuana Under 20 grams; Possession of Paraphernalia

The Sheriff’s Office said that the investigation began on Dec. 6, 2017 when a burglary was reported in Crystal River. During the burglary, the victim’s personal information and information regarding companies that he does business with were compromised.

In February 2018, the CCSO began getting reports of high-dollar items being bought throughout Citrus County using counterfeit checks bearing the names and information of the businesses from the December burglary.

Detectives from Community Crimes and Major Crimes teamed up and identified the main suspect, Michael Northcut. Northcut was living at 1119 East McKinley St.;, however, he was using the address and mailbox of the vacant house next door to receive all of the mail that he was getting as a result of his fraudulent activity, investigators said. The investigation continued, and detectives were able to obtain a search warrant for the house in order to retrieve stolen property.

On Monday morning, the search warrant was executed, and multiple subjects were at the residence when detectives arrived on scene. During the search, detectives found drugs in almost every room including cocaine, oxycodone and marijuana. Drug paraphernalia was also located.

Two firearms and a large amount of stolen property were seized and recovered from the scene.

This investigation identified 16 victims, who accepted fraudulent checks from the defendant(s). CCSO was able to return property to 12 of the victims. In total, the agency recovered $28,686 in stolen property that will be returned to the rightful owners.

“Our agency did an outstanding job today putting an end to this organized crime ring and arresting six suspects clearly participating in fraud and drug activities in our community. Many of the victims in this case were small business owners that lost $5,000 to $6,000 dollars in inventory. We will not tolerate this type of criminal activity that harms our businesses or the members of our community.” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast.

The Sheriff’s Office reminds residents that a check from a business may be fraudulent. Keep these points in mind:

  • Verify that the business exists. and is still in operation.
  • Verify that the person writing the check is authorized to write checks from the business.
  • If the person passing the check brings it in already signed, or there is a driver’s license number already written on the check, a further inspection into the validity of the check is warranted.

If you feel you may be a victim in this case or have information that would assist in this investigation, call the Sheriff’s Office at 352-726-1121 and ask for Major Crimes or contact CRIMESTOPPERS at 1-888-ANY-TIPS (269-8477).

 

One arrested after stabbing at Inverness bar

An Inverness man was arrested on Sunday following a report of a stabbing at Coach’s Pub and Eatery in Inverness.

Alexander Luis Rivera

An Inverness was arrested on Sunday following a report of a stabbing at Coach’s Pub and Eatery in Inverness.

The Sheriff’s Office reported that, upon arriving. several witnesses told deputies that Kim McKinney, 51, of Inverness, and Alexander Rivera, 22, also of Inverness, were involved in a physical altercation.

Witnesses said that at some point during the altercation, Rivera pulled out a small pocket knife and stabbed McKinney.

Emergency medical services were rendered to McKinney, who was then transported for further treatment. When questioned, Rivera stated that he was “not the victim in this case,” despite claiming he was attacked first and that was why he pulled the knife.

Rivera was placed under arrest and charged Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon and transported to the Citrus County Detention Facility for booking and processing.

Rivera’s bond was set at $10,000 on the charges.

 

Citrus County Fire Rescue, seven complete new firefighter orientation

Citrus County Fire Rescue held a new-hire pinning ceremony on Friday, March 16, at the Fire Rescue Training Center in Lecanto.

Citrus County Newly Hired Firefighters Matthew Campbell, Tim Daugherty, Manuel Martinez, Sean McMurray, Christina O’Rourke, Todd Peacock, and Kelly Seiferheld. (March 16, 2018)

Citrus County Fire Rescue held a new-hire pinning ceremony on Friday, March 16, at the Fire Rescue Training Center in Lecanto.

In the audience were friends, family and firefighters to participate in recognizing the newly hired firefighters who had successfully completed the new-hire orientation and were now ready to take their oath.

Speakers at the event were: County Administrator Randy Oliver, Fire Chief Craig Stevens, Deputy Chief Martin Giles, Training Chief Scot Prater, and Driver Engineer Mike Simek.

Citrus County Fire Rescue’s mission is “Dedicated to Exceptional Service through Prevention, Response and Education.” Included in the pictures are Citrus County Fire Rescue’s seven new Firefighters they are: Matthew Campbell, Tim Daugherty, Manuel Martinez, Sean McMurray, Christina O’Rourke, Todd Peacock, and Kelly Seiferheld.

“We are all very proud of them. Some went through our fire academy for firefighter I & II and are now starting their career here with the department.” said Citrus County Fire Chief Craig Stevens. 

The Mission of the Citrus County fire training center  is “Providing quality and well-trained firefighters. Since its doors opened in October 1999, the Citrus County Fire Training Center has been committed to providing quality training for Citrus County Firefighters. The Training Center offers over 20 certificate Programs of Study.

“Not only does the Center provide a quality training facility for our volunteers and career firefighters, it is also a State Certified Training Center as well open to anyone. The courses we offer allows our firefighters the ability to obtain state certifications in a variety of specialty courses.”

For more information about Citrus County Fire Rescue training programs visit: http://www.citruscountyfire.com/ .

 

Yates resigns as sheriff’s Community Relations director

Citrus County Sheriff’s Office employee Heather Yates has resigned from her post as the agency’s community relations director.

Heather Yates

Citrus County Sheriff’s Office employee Heather Yates has resigned from her post as the agency’s community relations director.

Yates, a 11-year employee of the CCSO, said in a letter that her last day at the agency will be April 13.

In her resignation letter, Yates said she was thankful for working alongside employee of the department, and that she was leaving to “pursue other interests.

Yates headed the Community Relations and Records Office, which is responsible for all written and electronic communications for the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, which includes our Records Department and Transcription.

This Community Relatons Office has offices in Inverness and Crystal River. The office educates the public having to do with all Sheriff’s Office programs and services; communicates details referencing crimes and other incidents; handles all media inquiries; releases public records in compliance with the Florida Public Records Law; coordinates community events for the agency; assigns speakers for community presentations; schedules and conducts news conferences; coordinates the agency’s emergency communications; and handles other special projects as directed by the Sheriff or his command staff.

The office utilizes a variety of methods to communicate with the public, including social media.

 

Citrus County receives state economic development grant

Citrus County is one of only eight communities across the State to be awarded a Competitive Florida Economic Development Project Grant.
 
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) awarded $91,000 in grant awards to eight communities across the state to provide funding that assists local governments in pursuing specific economic development projects or supplementing existing projects.
 
“We are pleased to be working with our partners, the State of Florida’s DEO and the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and welcome the opportunity to leverage those agencies’ resources to the benefit of our community and the citizens of Citrus County.” said Citrus County Board of County Commissioners Chairman, Ron Kitchen.
 
Citrus County received the $11,000 award to partner with the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council to update Citrus County’s Economic Development Strategic Plan with a community assessment including an economic base analysis, gathering citizen input for desired development objectives, and combining the information into a report of recommend goals and strategies.
 
DEO Executive Director Cissy Proctor, said, “DEO is committed to using our resources to help all Florida communities flourish. The Competitive Florida Economic Development Project grants offer valuable tools to help support communities in reaching their local economic development goals.”
 
Competitive Florida Economic Development Project Grants are available to all counties and municipalities to help communities learn more about local assets and economic conditions, and develop specific local projects. Grant awards range from $5,000 and $15,000.
 
The Competitive Florida Economic Development Project Grants for 2017-18 are:
 
* Broward County: $15,500
 
* Citrus County: $11,000
 
* City of Clewiston: $10,000
 
* City of Newberry: $11,000
 
* Green Cove Springs: $11,000
 
* Holmes County: $6,000
 
* Town of Hastings: $13,500
 
* Wakulla County: $13,000
 
The Competitive Florida Partnership is a two-year program that provides technical assistance and support to rural areas seeking to improve their communities through an asset-based economic development strategy.
 
The Competitive Florida Economic Development Project Grants are offered for communities that may already be undertaking economic development efforts and allows local governments to pursue a particular facet of the Competitive Florida model without obligating to the Competitive Florida Partnership.
 
For more details about the process and provisions of this facet of the Competitive Florida Partnership grant, visit the Competitive Florida Economic Development Project Grant.