News Cast 4/19

News Cast for April 19th:

Effort to raise awareness of child abuse

April is child abuse awareness month.

The Okeechobee Board of County Commissioners and the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners both approved proclamations this month.

The Hibiscus Children’s Center said they worked 49 verified cases of child abuse in Okeechobee last year.

Statistics show that one in three girls and one in five boys will be sexually abused in the country before they reach the age of 18.

Over 30,000 children are currently in the state dependency system.

Caroline Vinyard told Okeechobee commissioners about a successful case where two boys who were in a shelter for two years and then placed at the Real Life Children’s Ranch in Okeechobee.

The mother went through treatment for substance abuse, and ultimately participated in family therapy.

The mother did receive custody back of her two children.

“We believe that every child is one caring adult away from being a success story,” she added.

Sheriff said alleged drug dealers are familiar

Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen and his deputies didn’t have to rely much on photographs as they arrested 30 people last week on various drug charges.

Most of them had lengthy criminal records and have been in the Okeechobee County Jail on many occasions.

Two defendants had been arrested over 70 times.

Confidential informants were recorded on audio and video tape purchasing all kinds of drugs from crack cocaine to fentanyl in cars, grocery store parking lots, in business areas, near churches, and local parks.

Three of the cases had enough drugs to amount to trafficking charges.

Only one defendant was injured as he was tased trying to run from deputies on the railroad tracks.

Two of those arrested were allegedly using drugs as deputies served an arrest warrant.

Stephen said the operation is ongoing and more arrests are coming, “30 and counting.  There are more to follow.  I don’t want to give that total number out at this point.  Some will duck their heads and think they can pick up their heads and believe their okay on this round.”

Stephen said many of those charged last week were recent releases from the state prison system that is overcrowded and understaffed.

“Time and time again we arrest, charge, convict and send to prison drug dealers.  It just doesn’t seem to be working.  Some of these just got out of prison six months ago.”

Stephen said two drug overdoses occurred in our county last week.