At yesterday’s presser, Chief Deputy Chip Simmons, who handles the operational side of the sheriff’s office, talked about his agency is addressing the problem.
“We’ve had, over the last couple of months, a reorganization,” said Simmons. “We’re using our persons investigators, our property investigators, our warrants section, our narcotics section, high intensity patrol unit, all they’re doing is saturating our communities, the communities that we think are at risk for this type of behavior. Then we’re doing it in an aggressive and relentless way.”
On Monday, the sheriff’s office investigated a home invasion during which someone was shot. Simmons said, “We weren’t getting any information, but I’ll tell you what we did get, a search warrant. We found drug manufacturing equipment. So when we say this is drug-related, we’re not kidding. This is high risk behavior that’s taking place. And ultimately, what will happen is a gun will be brought, someone will get shot and then they’re wondering what’s law enforcement going to do about it.”
The chief deputy said that in a typical homicide or major investigation, investigators infiltrate an area. They talk to the victim, if they can, family and friends.
“We’ll talk to neighbors, we’ll canvas neighborhoods like you see on TV all the time,” he shared. “Now when we do this sort of canvas, we get zero assistance. We get zero assistance from neighbors who we know have cameras. We get nothing. We get a door slammed in our face and they say, ‘Go investigate it on your own.'”
The chief deputy said that there’s this perception that law enforcement is not trying to investigate these cases. “Nothing could be farther from the truth,” he told the audience. “We have a dedicated group of men and women at Escambia County Sheriff’s office and all they want to do is make Escambia County a better place because we live here. What we want is for the days for our children to be better than our days and be better than the days of our grandfathers and fathers.”
Simmons said the sheriff’s office takes its obligation to protect the public very seriously. He said, “We’re doing it day in and day out, quite honestly wearing ourselves out, because we care about this community. We want this community to get better. ”
He added, “I was talking to Commissioner May just the other day, and he said, ‘There’s no magic pill here that we can do. If that’s the case, New York would have it. Everyone would have it. The closest thing you can come is community involvement as a bargaining chip.’ And getting here and staying together and having a common voice to say, ‘Stop doing what you’re doing and help law enforcement so that no one else has to die in the streets of Escambia County.'”
Commissioner Robert Bender attended the press conference to show his support for Commissioner May and the community. He serves on the juvenile justice committee.
“My stance on that committee is that for youth that need the help, it’s available,” said Bender. “We have a great community and those programs are here ready to help anyone that wants to help. So when we come up and we have a uniform front and say that we’re going to fight this and we’re going to take back our community, that’s what makes us better.”
Sheriff Morgan said he realized that he was speaking to the choir at the press conference because many of the attendees are active in the community. He said, “What we need to do when we leave this press conference today is to go back to our community, start shaking the tree and knocking on doors, telling people, ‘You’ve got to break this silence,’ because we can take our community back, but we cannot take our community back without your assistance.”
Photo courtesy of Jennifer McKeon, WUWF