As the holiday season began in late November, Lee County Sheriff’s Office presence could be easily seen in and around Lee County shopping centers. LCSO surveillance towers were placed in mall parking lots and moved regularly around sections of the parking area.  Deputies have real-time phone and laptop video from each of the four cameras atop every surveillance tower. Marked and unmarked vehicles move slowly up and down the many rows of cars and trucks. “I have reallocated many resources to ensure that the holiday shopping season is safe and pleasurable for all of our residents and visitors,” stated Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno.  “Additional deputies, many of whom are in plain-clothes, will be assigned to patrol shopping areas around the county.” When asked about the surveillance towers, Marceno remarked, “The towers are a great resource.  Manned or unmanned, we can see everything.  We’re moving them around each parking lot on a regular basis.” The placement of Community Outreach Centers in Miromar Outlets and Bell Tower appears to be paying dividends, as well.  On December 11th, LCSO deputies caught and arrested a four-person shoplifting ring at Miromar Outlets in Estero. “Without an outreach center on-premises, it is unlikely that we could have responded in time to locate and detain these women,” said Sheriff Marceno.  “It’s an enormous advantage.” The sheriff also indicated that he has increased road patrols and that the LCSO Traffic Unit is out in full force. “It’s my responsibility,” remarked Sheriff Marceno.  “Keeping the roads safe for our residents and guests is a definite priority.  We are looking for impaired and aggressive drivers.  I’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that everyone makes it home safely.” So far, the sheriff’s efforts are showing a quick and dramatic success.  The “Semi-Annual Crime Report” for the first half of 2019 demonstrates significant reductions in crime, in Lee County including, but not limited, to homicide, sex crimes, robbery, burglary, and theft. Non-violent crime has been reduced by 22.58 percent, with an overall crime reduction of 18.77 percent. “Proactive policing is about reducing opportunity, showing a law enforcement omnipresence and creating a system that allows for quick movement of resources,” said Marceno.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno participated in the Lee County Faces of Law Enforcement panel discussion held recently in Cape Coral.

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno participated in the Lee County Faces of Law Enforcement panel discussion held recently in Cape Coral.

The panel consisted of State Attorney Amira Fox, Cape Coral Police Department Chief Dave Newlan and Sheriff Marceno.   In addition to answering questions posed by guests, Sheriff Marceno summarized his first year as Lee County Sheriff.   From the onset, Sheriff Carmine Marceno indicated that he had formulated an agenda and was devoted to maneuvering resources in order to address several key issues...student and school safety, an assault on drug dealers operating in Lee County and a zero-tolerance for any types of abuse, referencing child, elder, and animal abuse.   Marceno’s earliest statements, in 2018, referenced “school safety and quality of life issues in Lee County.”   The sheriff worked closely with the Lee County School District and with his own Youth Services Division to ensure that each and every school had a minimum of one School Resource Officer. Marceno indicated that these SROs would be carefully vetted to ensure that they met his vision for the role. In addition to possessing the skills of a seasoned law enforcement officer, Marceno wanted mentors…role models with a parental-based mentality. “They must have the hardness required to safeguard their respective school,” Sheriff Marceno remarked. “But, also, the patience and understanding needed when working with children.”The sheriff’s “Safe Kids – Safe Schools” initiative aims to protect students “from the moment they leave their   homes in the morning until they return in the afternoon. That includes walking to a bus stop, a safe ride on a school bus, total security in their school and a safe return home."The Lee County Sheriff’s Office has committed resources to patrolling school bus stops, strictly enforcing laws related to passing stopped school buses and placing   Traffic Unit members in and around schools to monitor speeding and cell phone laws inside school zones.   Marceno indicated that his Youth Services Division needed to fully investigate 173 school threats during the 2018-2019 school year and an additional 77 during the current school term.   “They’re (the investigations) tedious and time-consuming,” remarked Sheriff Marceno. “But every threat will be thoroughly investigated…including visits to the home to determine if there is access to weapons.”   Marceno has also added full-time K9s to the Youth Services Division to be used for conducting drug searches in the schools. All elementary and middle schools have Junior Cadet and Cadet programs, respectively. These programs are run by the SRO and designed to teach responsibility, build trust between children and law enforcement, instill a sense of community responsibility and much more. Fourth and fifth graders also learn skills such as flag etiquette.   Deputy Donna McNally, SRO at Buckingham Exceptional School, works to build lasting relationships with the students. “Deputy Donna,” as she is called, was the recipient of the “Back the Blue Award” which was presented personally by Florida Attorney General, Ashley Moody, for her work in implementing a school food pantry. SRO McNally also won the “2019 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award” during the Law and Order Ball for her work and dedication to her school and the children who attend.   “Over 94,000 students, over 6000 bus stops,” stated the sheriff. “It’s a large task with a lot of moving parts, but our Youth Services are second to none.”   Sheriff Marceno addressed questions pertaining to drug use and sales within Lee County.  The sheriff discussed the reallocation of resources so as to conduct undercover drug purchases and covert work in areas most affected by drug sales.   His drug sweeps have netted an unprecedented number of arrests and have resulted in the seizure of significant amounts of drugs, cash and weapons.   "An incredibly hard-working unit," Sheriff Marceno called his Narcotics Unit.  "Their diligence and work ethic continue to amaze me."   The sheriff was also insistent upon discussing abuse when asked about the recent cases of animal abuse/cruelty.  Sheriff Marceno reminded the group of the story of "Deputy Chance" and how he has become the ambassador against all forms of abuse.   Marceno pointed out that over 70 percent of victims of domestic violence have reported animal abuse in their homes.   "The link between animal and human abuse can't be overlooked," said Marceno.  "It's no coincidence."   Sheriff Marceno completed his portion of the panel discussion by indicating that he will continue to find ways to make Lee County the safest and most wonderful location for residents and guests.
School shootings ‘highly preventable’

School shootings ‘highly preventable’

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the School District of Lee County held a presentation Saturday on how parents can prevent — and respond to — active shooting threats.

About 100 people came out to the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall on the Florida Southwestern State College campus in Fort Myers for the presentation, where education and law enforcement officials spoke on how to spot at-risk individuals, as well as the necessity of early intervention, communication and what to do in the event of a crisis.

“Mass casualty shootings are highly preventable when pre-incident behavior is noticed and acted upon,” said Rick Parfitt, director of safety and security for the Lee County School District.

A common misconception is that acts of mass violence are a result of a person “snapping,” but it’s not true, he said.

There is a clear “pathway to violence” that that intent on committing a mass killing tends to follow.

Although there is no useful profile of a mass shooter, there is behavior that can be identified as potentially threatening, Parfitt said.

One primary way to spot an at-risk individual is through statements that reference an intent to harm, also known as “leakage.”

Leakage occurs when a person reveals clues to feelings, thoughts or fantasies toward violence, which include subtle threats, boasts, innuendos, predictions or ultimatums.

Other signs include a change in your child’s behavior; if they show persistent anger, physical aggression, slipping grades, “contextually inappropriate firearms behavior,” and a fascination with mass-murderers.


“Most (people who committed mass killings) have demonstrated something concerning enough that should have been recognized,” Parfitt said.

The primary way to stop these incidents is to catch that behavior and deescalate the situation. “We need a cultural shift in recognizing and reporting suspicious behavior,” he said.

Parents and students who recognize these patterns of behavior are encouraged to report them to school and law enforcement officials so they can decide how to step in and handle the situation.

In almost 80 percent to 90 percent of school shootings, at least one person had information that the attacker was thinking about or planning their attack, according to LCSO staff officer Scott Griffith.

Griffith spoke on the importance of educating your children on what to do in the event of a mass shooting.

He also conducted a lively presentation on how to defend yourself with anything from a set of keys to a fire extinguisher.

“More often than not, you freeze,” Griffith said. So it is important to educate and practice what to do in the event of a tragedy such as the one that occurred at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

It is best to start educating your children on such matters when they’re as young as 8 years old, according to Lori Brooks, Director of School Counseling and Mental Health Services In the event of an emergency, it is also important for parents to have a clear line of communication with the police and not react impulsively.

“In the event of a real emergency, there will be evacuation points,” Griffith said.

“We will let you know what’s happening.”

“Absolute Zero-Tolerance” For Animal Abuse,” Remarks Sheriff Carmine Marceno

“Absolute Zero-Tolerance” For Animal Abuse,” Remarks Sheriff Carmine Marceno

Never before a frequent topic or significant concern in Lee County, Florida, two noteworthy animal abuse incidents that have recently occurred have opened the eyes of animal-rights folks in Southwest Florida, around the state and, surprisingly, from outside the U.S. Last Fall, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call for service regarding a pit bull struck by gunfire near Longview Lane in Lehigh Acres.  Then Undersheriff, Carmine Marceno contacted East District staff, insisted that the perpetrator be located, and allocated resources to find that guilty party. LCSO East District did not disappoint.  Shortly after the incident, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office arrested 34-year-old Derrick Lee Vasquez. Back in February, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office responded to the 3200 block of 42nd Street SW, also in Lehigh Acres, to find a one-year-old Florida Cur with his mouth taped shut, riddled with apparent bite wounds and struggling to breathe. That dog, upon completion of treatment from Lee County Domestic Animal Services, was adopted by the sheriff’s office and subsequently named “Chance.” A furious Sheriff Marceno, once again, asked his East District staff to do “whatever was necessary” to find the person(s) responsible. Detective Jami Najarro was assigned the case and, as a result of relentless interviewing and neighborhood canvassing, along with some nifty DNA lab work, Oscar Lee Thompson III was arrested and charged with “Torture or Inflict Serious Physical Injury to an Animal." With the assistance of Lamar Advertising, Sheriff Marceno broadcast his zero-tolerance for animal abuse policy on billboards all over Lee County. Marceno’s obvious love and compassion for animals has attracted attention across the county and across the ocean.  The Lee County Sheriff’s Office was inundated with email messages, letters, phone calls and even a hand-drawn portrait of Chance sent from Portugal. “Animal abusers concern me,” stated Sheriff Carmine Marceno.  “In addition to the horrific and unacceptable abuse of animals, numerous studies show that these abusers are frequently the perpetrators of child abuse and domestic violence.  I’m just not going to let this happen in Lee County.”
Sheriff Carmine Marceno’s “Safe Students – Safe Schools” Initiative Highlighted By Florida Sheriff’s Association

Sheriff Carmine Marceno’s “Safe Students – Safe Schools” Initiative Highlighted By Florida Sheriff’s Association

Sheriff Carmine Marceno penned the “Safe Students – Safe Schools” initiative within days of taking the helm at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. “Student safety is more than a priority,” remarked Sheriff Marceno.  “Student safety is something that I insist on.  It’s just not an option.” Unique in that the initiative begins as each student leaves home in the morning and continues until returning home at day’s end, the Florida Sheriff’s Association took notice of this valiant aspiration on the part of the sheriff and shared a local news article in a recent FSA publication. In addition to ensuring that all schools in unincorporated Lee County have, at the very least, one School Resource Officer and include surveillance technologies to maintain full-time visual access, Sheriff Marceno expressed concerns regarding the hours prior to the first bell and after dismissal. Marceno’s focus ambitiously includes the walk to and from the bus stop, safety measures while awaiting the arrival of the bus and strict traffic enforcement when buses are loading and unloading students. His “zero-tolerance” policy, concerning vehicles passing stopped school buses and speeding in school crosswalks and school zones, is enforced daily by moving resources wherever needed. Members of the local media have set up cameras alongside the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Unit to document this strict enforcement and have participated in ride-alongs inside of unmarked LCSO vehicles while they follow closely, but safely, behind county school buses. Additionally, Marceno has generated Public Safety Announcements regarding a recent rise in school safety threats.  A stern, but fair, video was produced and broadcast in schools countywide. The sheriff’s measures have been met with overwhelming approval.  Parents, guardians and relatives have posted their appreciation on Lee County Sheriff’s Office social media platforms and have, on many occasions, stopped him to express thanks.
Missing persons program revamped

Missing persons program revamped

Lee sheriff to use GPS, drones, bloodhounds

Drones, bloodhounds, scent kits and GPS tracking devices are part of Reunite, a program the Lee County Sheriff ’s Office is implementing.

Designed to replace the recently discontinued Project Lifesaver, the initiative is a partnership between the Sheriff ’s Office, the Sheriff ’s Youth Activity League and United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee.

“We have upgraded our technology to allow us to locate missing and endangered people,” Sheriff Carmine Marceno explained at a morning media briefing Thursday. “Reunite combines state-of-the-art technology and old-fashioned police work to bring missing people back home to their families.”

The program, still in its formulation state with United Way, will put together several methods of locating someone who has been reported lost or missing....