The last time Escambia County had a multi-agency task force targeting gun-related crimes was seven years ago.
Sheriff David Morgan announced the “crime response team” at a joint press conference on August 6, 2012 with Mayor Ashton Hayward, Pensacola Police Chief Chip Simmons, State Attorney Bill Eddins and members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in attendance.
Morgan explained that “criminals are no respecter of boundaries, anywhere.”
The press conference was held after the city of Pensacola had two drive-by shootings and the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office had two shootings.
The coordinated initiative was to allow the agencies to share information and resources. Both the sheriff’s office and police department dedicated full time employees the effort.
“People that have no record tell you they have a gun on them for protection, which is a sad, sad commentary on the society in which we live,” said Eddins. “Guns are just everywhere. It’s just unbelievable to me the amount of guns that are around.”
In a press release, the sheriff’s office stated the Florida Department of Probation and Parole, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the US Marshall’s and the U.S. Attorney’s Office would also assist in the effort.
“The goal of this initiative is the reduction of gun related violence as well as the arrest and successful prosecution of those who commit gun related crimes. The team will respond to and investigate violent crimes where a firearm was the primary weapon of choice. They will work as a team with local investigators as a support unit and at times as the primary investigative unit.”ESCO press release, 8/6/12
The types of calls to which they responded included:
- Homicides (Gun related)
- Drive By Shootings
- Intentional Weapon Discharges (with property damage or injury)
- Suspicious Firearm Wounds and Firearm Wounds to Known Criminals
- Persons Arrested and Charged with a Firearm Violation (primary and secondary)
- Illegal Aliens with Firearms
- Narcotic Related Crimes Involving Firearms
- Illegal Firearms and Weapons Caches
- Found or Recovered Firearms (including those with no arrest)
The question today is: do ECSO and PPD have the manpower to recreate the crime response team?
Because the school district has failed to hire enough campus security officers, ECSO may have to take deputies off the street to protect schools. The Pensacola Police Department has young officers on the street and needs to beef up its training.
Sheriff Morgan already has had to cancel his Operation Clean Sweep program because of staffing problems.